A stunning indicate at the Design Museum presents the master couturiers own vision although sadly he wont see it. By Kate Finnigan
When Azzedine Alaia, the Tunisian master couturier, succumbed of a heart attack in Paris last November, aged 82, the Design Museum in London was seven months into preparing a big show dedicated to his run. It was to be the first fashion exhibition in the museum’s new building in Kensington and the choice of Alaia had been carefully built.” The museum has very special architecture ,” says Alice Black, co-director.” What Azzedine Alaia created over his career is also striking sculpture. We felt that his work against the backdrop of the museum would be amazing .”
Black had come to know the tiny and charismatic designer over the previous few months. The team had collaborated closely with Alaia himself, a human known for his perfectionism and hands-on approach.” Azzedine was the heart and soul of his label. For a while I wondered if the exhibition could still go ahead ,” says Black.” But because he had really wanted it, everyone took it on themselves to make it happen. It was his idea, his idea, so we hadn’t been left to second guess .”
Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier, curated by Alaia’s long-term collaborator and friend, Mark Wilson of the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands, opens this Thursday. The museum has defied the temptation to turn it into a retrospective and has stayed with the designer’s original vision for it to be a study of technique and craft, with more than 60 examples of couture pieces. It is the first-ever UK show dedicated to Alaia, who is less well known here than in his adopted France. But those who know way revere Alaia almost like no other. The industry loves a secret and there has been a cult surrounding Alaia for five decades, inspired not only by his unique- although much-imitated- style but by his desire for perfectionism( a dress could take five weeks or five years ), his refusal to be dictated to by commercialism and his personal style of business, largely conducted in his atelier-cum-apartment in the Marais around a kitchen table, where Alaia served guests with his own cuisine.