The Supermodels Top Choice: Azzedine Alaia

The phrase ‘supermodel’ was coined in the late 80’s, early 90’s at a time when the likes of Linda, Cindy, Christie and Naomi et al ruled the covers and catwalks. One designer intrinsically linked to them all was Azzedine Alaia, his second skin, figure flaunting dresses not only showed off their statuesque bodies but also made them feel fabulous.


‘My obsession is to make women beautiful when you create with that in mind, things can’t go out of fashion.’


Alaia designed each of his garments meticulously by hand, he draped, sculpted and cut all his own patterns. He was known to work on certain pieces for years, throwing away the rulebook about seasonal collections and deadlines. He did his own thing and he did it extremely well, and now we are fortunate enough to see over 60 of his iconic and rare garments in a unique exhibition – Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier.

Situated at The Design Museum London, the exhibition is a UK first for the designer, one that he conceived and co-curated prior to his unfortunate death in November last year. Curated by Mark Wilson, Chief Curator of the Groninger Museum, the exhibition is presented as Monsieur Alaia had intended, in grouped sections that provide insight and narrative into his creative, and yet timeless, vision. 

The Alaia favourites including the stretch body, the bandage dress and the zipped dress are all there alongside exquisite evening gowns that are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Crafted from lace, rich velvets, silks, leather and fine mesh each and every piece sculpts the female form and celebrates curves unreservedly. Along with the garments, which are presented against striking, reflective backdrops, are a selection of photographs that reveal key moments in Alaia’s life. My personal favourites are the ones of him at work; pinning and cutting, as well as the short black and white film, playing on loop, of the supers sashaying and Paris twirling in his designs. Even in this early footage you can see the rapport he has with the models of the moment and his determination to convey beauty through his work


‘I always feel free when I don’t want something I don’t make it.’

If you love the beauty, detail and craftsmanship of haute couture then this is the fashion exhibition for you.

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier is on until 7th October 2018 at The Design Museum, 224-238, Kensington High Street, London W8.

Review and images by JoJo Iles