Tunisian born, Paris based haute couturier, Alaia masterly combined centuries old couture sewing techniques with cutting edge technology. His skill at knitting elasticised fabrics ensured his dresses were so figure fitting they almost looked like they were tattooed on.
This bespoke, jewel-like exhibition at the Design Museum in Kensington, weaves together Alaia‘s most seductive dresses with metal sculptural backdrops, created by his artists friends exclusively for the exhibition. Sadly, Alaia, who had been completely involved in the planning and curation of his retrospective exhibition, died just before it opened.
When I walked into the exhibition space, at first I was taken a back by the 6ft tall mannequins, raised even higher on narrow plinths. It seemed confusingly out of proportion. But as I walked among the towering Alaia giants, I suddenly realised this was a play on: his own diminuative height, the giraffe-like height of his muses, and the towering scale of the display that showed off his technical desig skills.
By the time I’d walked through the entire show (around 60 dresses) I was completely in awe of the sheer impact of the ‘Art is Fashion/Fashion is Art’ feel of the exhibition.
My absolute favourite Alaia fashion moment was standing in front of a Goliath-height column of old gold coloured, knitted silk and Lycra banded sheath gown.
The exhibition is laid out in categories that Alaia frequented many times in his career: Black Silhouette, Exploring Volume, Spanish Accent, Renaissance Perspective, Timelessness, and so on.
“My obsession is to make women beautiful. When you can create with that in mind, things can’t go out of fashion”.
‘Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier’ at the Design Museum, London
www.designmuseum.org until 7th October