Powerful Beauty. Alaïa AW22

Second collections are always the most difficult to pull off, especially when done for a legendary maison like Alaïa, where the heaviness of legacy might simply overwhelm the most talented designer. Great news: Pieter Mulier nailed it. For autumn-winter 2022, “we translated the DNA of Alaïa with a little bit more of what I like,” he said after the show presented at Azzedine Alaïa’s “cathedral” (the Marais building holding the brand’s atelier, flagship boutique, foundation and the late designer’s home). “It’s basically about beauty. It’s the next step after the last collection: a push forward. I didn’t want a concept. Just beautiful girls and beautiful clothes.” Beyond Alaïa’s loyal following, Mulier is faced with bringing the brand into the consciousness of new generations. His method seems to be this: stick to the codes but turn up the volume. He did so in a collection largely dedicated to bell-bottoms derived from Azzedine Alaïa’s Spanish skirt shapes. Their presence was determined, from denim bell-bottoms to a one-legged jumpsuit bell-bottom and bell-bottoms attached to thigh-high boots that bounced up and down and looked like chopped-off bloomers. The silhouette was echoed in dresses like those of Mulier’s first collection with lively mermaid hems, and in ladylike peplums on skirts that were positively polite compared to their effervescent cousins. While jaunty bell-bottoms are sure to get attention on the daily algorithm scroll of younger generations, there were more intellectually intriguing elements to Mulier’s collection. A series of knitted dresses with face coverings executed in close collaboration with the Picasso Foundation (Azzedine Alaïa was a collector and friend of the family) interpreted ceramics created by the artist in the 1940s through impressive embroideries that turned the models’ physiques into optical illusions. “There’s a rough, pagan beauty about it. Ultimate goddesses,” Mulier said of the dresses. Exactly that component was an interesting contrast in a collection otherwise embodied by upbeat sass and glamour. They kind of cut right through the fun and made you take notice. If they inspired a surrealist streak in the collection, it was there in the biker and flight jackets Mulier morphed into body-con dresses, padding and all, or the dress made entirely out of Alaïa multi-buckle belts. A variety of coats showed what a new Alaïa could also be: big, enveloping shapes borrowed from the gentleman’s wardrobe and sculpted in thick wools, then nipped-in delicately at the bottom of the back to define a feminine silhouette. Mulier said that “the little bit more” he had added of himself to the collection’s genetics was mainly tailoring-focused. That was clear in those coats, but also in louche suits and tuxedos, which accomplished a delicately oversized line that didn’t get overwhelming. Love, love, love!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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