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Alaïa, to touch with the end of the soul

January 23 2018

[Click on the image to see the gallery]

At 18 rue de la Verrerie in Paris, 41 creations of Azzedine Alaïa were chosen by Olivier Saillard and will be exhibited in the designer's house until June 10. This tribute exhibition, held in the parade hall, covers a period from 1981 to 2017. And yet, impossible to date a single piece: the fashion of Azzedine Alaïa is immortal. - Isabelle Cerboneschi.


On this rainy Sunday I sneak under the door of the 18 rue de la Verrerie, Paris but for the first time it will be without him. Without Azzedine Alaïa, without his laughter: just his outbursts.

"I am a fashion designer", is the first exhibition dedicated to the master in this place that served as his kingdom: workshop, art gallery, shop, hotel, showroom, and especially kitchen, where he passed all those who wanted the see. Because it was here, around the table that everything was knotted and unraveled.

In the hall where the parades took place, long-awaited moments because arriving outside official calendar and at improbable dates, 41 works of Mr. Alaïa reveal their absolute beauty. They mold invisible and perfect bodies, as if the air had married them. These are only curves and counter-curves, undulations and arabesques. Looking at them, I remember the words ofAzzedine Alaïa and his taste for the rear. He has always loved curves. God the woman is beautiful in Alaïa! A sculptural white dress, with a hood, resembles that worn by Grace Jones. I suddenly recognize some pieces of his latest couture collection that he lent us a week before disappearing to achieve a last shoot. Especially the one that ended the parade, carried by Naomi Campbell.

As I think about it, Naomi Campbell appears, as if the dress had the power to materialize it. Except that it is not so. She goes out of the kitchens where she had her habits, as she takes the time to explain to Jack Lang. She called Azzedine Alaïa "daddy", as well as all the other girls he knew how to turn into goddesses. She crosses the hall, hieratic, beautiful beyond beauty, like the queen she was during the last fashion show that was held here last summer. The questions I would like to ask him will hang in the air, like the dresses around us.

"Some of the people who visit the exhibition say to me," How sad! ". But doing nothing would have been even sadder, says Olivier Saillard who had organized the sublime exhibition dedicated to Monsieur Alaïa at the Palais Galliera, the fashion museum he directed for seven years. Azzedine was a very combative character and he would not like people to fall into a counterproductive melancholy. He has done such an extraordinary job that it is our mission to preserve it, to protect this work and to organize exhibitions galore, to talk about this unique talent. "

"It was planned, all that! We created the association in 2007. We knew we were not immortal, "says Carla Sozzani, the lifelong friend, in any case, Mr. Alaïa's forty-year-old friend. It is with her and with her companion, the artist Christoph von Weyhe, that Azzedine Alaïa, chose to create the Association that bears his name. Just after her death, Carla Sozzani, the President of the Association, approached Olivier Saillard, leaving the Galliera Museum, to convince him to join the Association, destined to become a foundation, as desired by the couturier. he said yes. "It's less a professional project than a moral mission to protect Azzedine's work and put it forward. Yes I want to play a role, "says Olivier Saillard.

Azzedine Alaïa He had often told me about his desire to transform his mansion into an exhibition space to show his own collections and those of others: in several decades, he has collected the clothes of the biggest names in the history of fashion. "There are so many exhibitions to invent! says Carla Sozzani. Azzedine has collected sixty years of his work. More all the work of others! It's gigantic! "

The exhibition began on the first day of haute couture week. A sham for a fashion designer who parade out of time, outside any standard and any schedule. He paraded when it was singing to him, or rather when his dresses were ready. But "they are never ready," he told me, laughing.

"It's a good time to show his work as a couturier, sculptor and architect," says Olivier Saillard again. He is the last designer in the strict sense, who knew how to sew, pin, assemble, design a pattern. From this virtuosity, he knew how to draw a style as did Balenciaga or Madeleine Vionnet before him. It's rare. A style is an architecture of the body served by a science of clothing that can only come from the cutting technique. He was a fashion designer as he no longer exists. Then he adds, "I had the freedom to choose the clothes I wanted to exhibit. I preferred to go to what was most timeless: blacks and whites. I told myself that talking about timelessness, for Azzedine, was the most accurate thing. Eternity suited him well. "