The news broke this morning that legendary fashion designer Mr Azzedine Alaïa passed away in Paris at age 77.
The son of Tunisian farmers, it can easily be said that he was one of the greatest designers of our time. Revered for his signature A-line body-con silhouettes and couture craftsmanship, his talent for producing the world's most-coveted dresses has seen his empire become one of the most prestigious and respected of the past 30 years.
Born on June 7, 1939 in Tunis, Tunisia, Alaia moved to Paris in 1957, and worked for some of the biggest names in the fashion industry at the time, including Christian Dior, Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler. He opened his first atelier in his small apartment in the late seventies - from where he created gowns for everyone from Marie-Hélène de Rothschild to Greta Garbo - and showed his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980. According to Vogue.com, in the same year a Bergdorf Goodman buyer stopped someone in the street that was wearing an Alaia leather coat and demanded to know where it was from. This led to Alaia being stocked in the US and eventually the opening of a stand-alone store.
In 1984, he was voted Best Designer of the Year and Best collection of the Year by the French Ministry of Culture, and his career continued to grow from strength-to-strength as his work was featured in many major editorials. In the mid-eighties, Alaia popularized the stretchy body-conscious silhouette, accentuating the bust and cinching in waists.
In the mid-nineties, Alaia avoided the fashion spotlight, preferring to cater for his devoted clientele out of his Le Marais workspace, which was simultaneously used as a workshop, boutique and showroom.
In 1995, one of Alaia's pieces appeared in Clueless, now a millennial cult classic. Many first recall hearing of the name when Cher/Alicia Silverstone shrieked "You don't understand, this is an Alaïa!". Also in 1995, Alaia designed supermodel Stephanie Seymour's wedding dress - reportedly took 1,600 hours to make.
Mr Alaia's held his first catwalk show in seven years in 2011, for which he was given a standing ovation, followed by another standout show six years later in July of this year.
As much as his work itself was truly singular, it is genuinely hard to attach the work of Alaia to a singular personality type. It was always feminine, fierce and really something that undoubtedly embodied the word "fashion". There was no one with the notion of taste that could dislike Alaia's pieces. His skill was strongly tied to the fact that he loved women and understood the female psyche very very well. "A woman is like an actress, she's always onstage", he once remarked. It's this deep grasp of women's profound, impossible-to-switch-off consciousness of themselves and awareness of the many nuanced dynamics around them that made him such a great desinger.