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.

Never Nostalgic. Azzedine Alaïa SS20

We try always try to have something that relates to our history, without being dated or nostalgic – Mr. Alaïa was never nostalgic,” said Caroline Fabre Bazin, Azzedine’s longtime right arm, during the spring-summer 2020 presentation for the maison. The look-book is a classic homage to the couturier’s outstanding oeuvre. One of the designer’s most iconic pieces, the perfecto, appeared in the collection few times, being the season’s key item. “He would always say ‘yes, okay’ and then he’d change everything, because he hated repeating himself,” said Fabre Bazin. “Practically from the beginning, he made them every season: short, long, with zip, without, in python, leather, denim; every time it was different.” This season, an early, pre-2000 biker jacket returns in Japanese denim or in python. Other throwbacks: a polka dot faille trench or a denim peacoat from summer 1992 (a nod to the Tati exhibition currently on show at the Association Azzedine Alaïa). The bow theme may nod to a collection from 2010, signature studs may return via 3D printing, a technical silk organza may be embroidered with an archival motif and then used on a different silhouette, or a print from 1991 may find fresh relevance on different materials – the studio working under the name of the master reinvents, revisits, reworks. Ultimately, “then” fuses with “now”. The Alaïa atelier has all it needs to keep shining for years to come.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.