Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier
Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier was the first exhibition on the Tunisian designer to be shown in the UK. Held at the Design Museum, it was conceived and co-curated by the designer himself before his death at the end of 2017. Exploring his work, spanning from the early ’80s to his last pieces in 2017, the space showcases over 60 garments. Each gown was re-cut and made by Azzedine specifically for the exhibition, employing an elongated silhouette to illustrate the exquisite craftsmanship and many concepts which he pioneered i.e. the bandage dress, the corset belt and the zipped dress.
Pieces are grouped by technique rather than collection/year debuted. Flamenco dresses from 2011 embellished in metallics illustrate the influence of Spain; his revolutionary use of leather is evident in coats and dresses studded with eyelets presented in 1981; his iconic ‘Wrapped Forms’ bandage dresses take up a large footprint of the exhibition space, originally debuted in 1986. These pieces came to take form from Alaïa’s body-conscious design method. He fitted fabric to the form of the body and began every piece by pinning fabric to the model’s figure and then cut his own patterns - a rarity in the industry. The couturier used this stretch material for years inside his garments made for private clients and then one day started to use them on their own. This mastery with stretch fabrics earned him the nickname the 'King of Cling' in the 1980s.
The 360 degree view of the garments allows them to be appreciated in full with the craftsmanship apparent throughout. The phrase ‘timeless fashion’ is quintessential when Azzedina Alaïa is discussed with every item remaining relevant to this day; the creator did not follow trends or rigid themes but simply strove for his idea of perfection.