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Credits: Valerio Mezzanotti
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Credits: Valerio Mezzanotti
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Credits: Valerio Mezzanotti
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Credits: Valerio Mezzanotti
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Credits: Valerio Mezzanotti
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Credits: Valerio Mezzanotti
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Credits: Valerio Mezzanotti
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Credits: Valerio Mezzanotti

INTERVIEW | Azzedine Alaïa

"The starting point is always the woman, the body you're dressing... I've never thought and I don't think of being fashion or revolutionary. I don't reason by thinking of creating something which is purely Alaïa. I never think of myself as a designer or a couturier. I admire women; I love them because it's thanks to them that I did and still can do what I love. I'm not interested in the noise around fashion. When I make dresses for women, for my girlfriends, and see that I'm making them beautiful and happy, I am happy as well, incredibly happy." 


Azzedine Alaïa, picture by Valerio Mezzanotti for MFF Magazine.

 

This simple thought is Azzedine Alaïa's, master of seduction, sculptor of the feminine  body, prophet of contemporary femininity, and couturier "sui generis." Back under the fashion system's spotlight during the latest Paris fashion week, he brought his couture on the catwalk after six years of absence from the official schedule. Naomi Campbell, who calls him dad, opened the show. Because the world of the Tunisian creative talent is full of special, iconic women. From Grace Jones to Beyoncé and Greta Garbo, for whom he made one of his first creations. Curious of the world and in love with women, thanks to his sculpture studies he worked on the woman's body to define a new language of sexiness. "There are parts of the body that it's nice to show and reveal... Even when you create a dress with a zip, the zip needs to open on a side of the body that is nice to show, a special one." Tireless worker, tailor more than designer, along with the Richemont group, he chose the path of freedom. "I have a great respect for what they do for me... They give me a great freedom. That freedom I don't have in my mind, my thoughts, my ideas. That freedom that, even when I'm absorbed by my work, allows me to create." And build a story in the name of an aesthetic continuity because, as he candidly admits: "All I do is work on my own work."

How was it to come back showing Couture?

I did not do any such thing as a “comeback showing couture.” I find it strange that journalists think that there is such a thing as a comeback. I have always done couture, alongside ready-to-wear, developing together. I have always done couture dresses, and more and more in recent years. I am discreet, and do not show off. Discretion can be considered a form of absence, but I have been very much working on couture dresses through the years.

How did you start working on the collection? And what did you want to express?

I started like every time: nothing special. I did clothes for the collection. I do not try to express anything, not to do anything stylistic, not to think about fashion. I am doing regular work, like a couturier dressing women. I never stop to work. There is no beginning and no end. I work more than ever. 

When Naomi opened the show, what did you feel? And what is your first memory related to her?

It is not about memory or about the past. I always live in the present. And Naomi is always present.

What is the Alaïa woman? Who are your muses?

I do not have any specific muse: every woman is my muse. When you make clothes, you have to respect every woman. Women choose style today: they are the muses of my style. 


Azzedine Alaïa, picture by Valerio Mezzanotti for MFF Magazine.

 

How did you start working in fashion? When did you realize that you wanted to be a designer?

I never thought I would be a designer, and less now than ever. It started normally: I was at the school of fine arts. Things happen without thinking about them. And even today, I do not organize anything. I loved Paris; for me coming to live in Paris was much more important than anything else. Paris, when you love her, gives you everything; and when you don’t, she throws you away.

What is your first memory related to fashion?

When I was a child, my mother would dress for celebrations, and people around her would be sewing clothes; I witnessed all that. I had an aunt who was a dancer – her shoes came from Perugia, she was dressed with a red-drape coat with a reverse side in panther by Dior or Balmain copied in Tunis. I would go out with her, and I was very proud of her company. When I looked at her, I couldn’t not think about fashion.

If you could go back and you had not become a couturier, what would you have wanted to do?

I would have done something I could enjoy: I can do anything I love. I could have taken care of children, of young people.

What do you think of today’s fashion? You created your own universe and avoid following the typical fashion system timing... why?

I can’t think of today’s fashion: I live the time as it is. The past, I know. And I am in the present and I live through it now. And I do not know what a universe is, nor what “mine” would be; fashion made it possible for me to meet extraordinary women throughout my career, like Louise de Vilmorin, Arletty, Carla Sozzani. Women make men. I do not have muses, but women are the most powerful, and they make men, even the most powerful and most intelligent.

Who are your points of reference? And, in the contemporary landscape, who are the young/emerging designers you appreciate the most?

My point of reference, as it should be for every designer, is women: they wear the clothes, and bring the designers to the top. I am curious to see who is coming up: there are always people we do not know about, and who are coming up. I have admiration for every designer who is really working to make a consistent body of work. 


Azzedine Alaïa, picture by Valerio Mezzanotti for MFF Magazine.

 

What is seduction today?

There has never been any difference between forms of seductions – in the past, the present, and the future. It has existed for millenaries, and it depends on every individual’s sensitivity, then and now. 

Art has always been an important part of your work. What is the link between art and fashion, and why?

Art is a great nutriment for me, much more than the history of fashion. Very early on, I was looking at the work of Zurbarán, and Velásquez, and that has remained in my brain forever. For me, there is no difference between the great artists of yesterday and of today: art is never dépassé. I went to see the exhibition of Valentin de Boulogne at the Louvre: he is a master today, just as he was in the 17th century. 

You often work with the world of theater. What do you enjoy in the exchange between disciplines?

I appreciate every form of the art of our time: it is important to respect them at the same level, to work with them equally, and with respect to their individual form. If it is ballet, you have to react the movement. You have to respect the dancers and their bodies. They have to be at ease perform; the clothes should not weigh on them, so that they can accomplish their work. I should not perturb their movement. In opera, too, people move, it’s not static; it’s not a fashion picture. You have to let the silhouette appear in the air: clothes should be part of the dancer’s body, and appear with them. But it is the same in every woman’s life.