News & Runway

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Azzedine Alaïa

Azzedine Alaïa

image: Getty

“You don’t understand. This is an Alaïa… He’s like a totally important designer.” — Cher in ‘Clueless’

“You don’t understand,” moans Alicia Silverstone as her character Cher is robbed at gunpoint and asked to get down on the ground in the cult hit Clueless. “This is an Alaïa… He’s like a totally important designer.” Ditzy as she may be, Cher was on the money with her name-dropping. Beloved by A-listers from Naomi Campbell and Madonna to Carine Roitfeld and Carla Sozzani, Alaïa pieces are among the world’s most coveted and valuable. While the designer is notoriously private, when interviewed, he isn’t shy about voicing his opinion. Here’s a look at 10 things you probably didn’t know about the vocal Tunisian.

  1. Alaïa isn’t afraid of anyone — including Anna Wintour. “She runs the business (Vogue) very well, but not the fashion part. When I see how she is dressed, I don’t believe in her tastes one second. I can say it loudly! She hasn’t photographed my work in years even if I am a best seller in the U.S. and I have 140 square meters at Barneys. American women love me; I don’t need her support at all. Anna Wintour doesn’t deal with pictures; she is just doing PR and business, and she scares everybody. But when she sees me, she is the scared one. [Laughs.] Other people think like me, but don’t say it because they are afraid that Vogue won’t photograph them. Anyway, who will remember Anna Wintour in the history of fashion?” Ouch.
  2. Like many designers (notably, Donna Karan), Alaïa thinks the current fashion system is flawed. “I can only speak for myself, but for a long time now the system of fashion has had nothing to do with our time — it doesn’t suit our time at all,” he tells BoF. “The world is changing rapidly. We see the proof of change every day in the news. Young people want change in this industry, too, yet we continue, just like in the 19th century, to do défilés. There is no need – no interest, really. We could do fewer collections and obtain the same results. We don’t lose any money if we do less.”
  3. Don’t ever compare Alaïa to Karl Lagerfeld. “Happily, women love me and buy my clothes, unlike Karl who’s never been loved like me! [Laughs.],” the designer tells Virgine Magazine. “I don’t like his fashion, his spirit, his attitude. It’s too much caricature. Karl Lagerfeld never touched a pair of scissors in his life. That doesn’t mean that he’s not great, but he’s part of another system. He has capacity. One day he does photography, the next he does advertisements for Coca-Cola. I would rather die than see my face in a car advertisement. We don’t do the same work.”
  4. The perfect scent is, according to the designer, “the smell of fresh air.” He doesn’t wear cologne and doesn’t like the air to be too saturated with scents.
  5. The best compliment Alaïa has ever received was, according to the designer, when models asked to keep his dresses instead of getting paid. “These girls were giving me the most important years of their lives, so I accepted with joy.” This leaves us wondering who exactly these models were and how much (or little) they were being paid.
  6. The designer is in somewhat of an expansion mode. In addition to opening his first flagship since the 90s in Paris, he has signed a fragrance and cosmetics license with Beauté Prestige International (responsible for Narciso Rodriguez and Issey Miyake fragrances, among others) to launch his first fragrance. This is a somewhat surprising move given how “anti-fashion system” the designer is and the fact that, as mentioned before, he isn’t a fan of perfume. Perhaps the perfume will be air scented?
  7. A retrospective of the designer’s work was displayed at the Palais Galliera in the Musée de la mode. Seventy garments were included, each of which was created entirely by hand, pulled from private collections and entirely restored. In fact, the designer forewent working on a Spring 2014 collection so he could restore every piece to its original condition. The pieces spanned three decades of work and were shown on custom-made mannequins.
  8. The designer rents not one, but three apartments in Paris, all located in an 18th century building next door to his atelier in the Marais. In total, there are five bedrooms and about 3,300 square feet.
  9. When Alaïa staged his first show since 2003 in 2011, he received rave reviews and big names like Kanye West and Donatella Versace attended. Notably absent, however, was Wintour and the entire Vogue team. They were not invited and Wintour had reportedly banned her staff from going anyway, according to The Cut.
  10. The designer told the Financial Times that he turned down John Galliano’s job at Christian Dior. “Mr. Alaia wasn’t interested. Flattered, but not about to pursue. The story of what happened with John was a sad story, he said when I asked him, and he didn’t want to be part of the next chapter,” writes Vanessa Friedman.