Classics. Alaïa AW21

Azzedine Alaïa‘s studio team respects the late monsieur’s aesthetic, techniques and silhouettes, and keeps on working with well-known codes of the maison. The brand consistently evolves, mostly in peace and silence (the rumours of big-name designer appointments are just rumours). Given Alaïa’s decades-old archive of tens of thousands of prototypes, patterns, samples, and unfinished ideas, it’s amazing the house manages to edit down about 40 pieces for the seasonal Editions line. “It’s difficult and horribly frustrating because every time I go through [it, I] see so many pieces I know and love,” explained the house’s Heritage and Editions director Caroline Fabre Bazin. Ultimately, she and Alaïa CEO Myriam Serrano decided to focus on pieces they see as “important for the house, important in the history of fashion, that also speak of technique and timelessness.” Alaïa followers will recognize such iconic designs as the body-con black dress with a wraparound zip, now in long and short versions. They may also recall the intricacy of a coat held together with a technique the designer extrapolated from woodworking and transposed onto leather for a coat from 2006. Called charnière, the French word for hinge, it involves interlacing leather seams by hand in lieu of stitching. A rose-beige knit dress recalls the time a supplier turned up to show Monsieur Alaïa new lacelike techniques; he took them all and used them together for a corset dress. Elsewhere, a wool that was accidentally overboiled became a mesh-like coat, and entered into the house lexicon. Every piece has not just a date, but also a backstory. Autumn-winter 2021 revisits house techniques in new treatments and combinations that sometimes rival couture-level craftsmanship. Fragility and strength meet on a tiered lace dress with a charnière construction on the neckline, waist, and skirt. African inspirations inform the weave of a graceful skirt in russet, beige, and black; the skater skirt is revisited in a sculptural Japanese fabric, and a white skirt picks up on origami techniques. Laser-cut leather features a new style of perforation named for Sidi Bou Said, Alaïa’s Tunisian hometown and final resting place. The snow white sheepskin jacket embroidered with arabesques is a showstopper. Classics that never get boring.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Chic, Chic, Chic. Alaïa AW89

A few days ago, I discovered this delightful autumn-winter 1989 Alaïa collection, and it’s unbelievable how timeless all those Monsieur Azzedine’s designs are. Actually, they even get better with age. The colours (especially all the shades of curcuma!), the cuts, the softness of wools and cashmeres used in this line-up, the body-conscious eveningwear, which looks both seductive and comfortable… it’s all so good. And of course, it was presented on the rue de Moussy – the live & work space Azzedine Alaïa built in the Marais district of Paris that would become a welcoming mecca to models and clients. What’s interesting, it was unfinished when the designer presented his winter 1989 show a month after the regular season ended (Alaïa famously presented on his own schedule, when he felt finished, and not according to a calendar date). According to The Los Angeles Times, the glass-roofed space was leaky, dampening the models as they paraded in a collection that underlined some of the tropes the designer had staked out as his own: sculpted leathers and clingy second-skin knits. The flowing bias-cut dresses in shimmering metallics definitely looked even more spectacular as they were slightly wet. Below are some of my favourite looks from this highly underrated collection.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.