The fashion world mourns a legend today, with the news that the Tunisian-born couturier Azzedine Alaia has died at the age of 82.
Famous for his precisely cut dresses that celebrated the female form, he flouted the traditional fashion system and achieved world renown on his own terms.
Largely known for his close relationships with iconic models such as his "adopted daughter" Naomi Campbell, Alaia's admirers spread far and wide and include influential designers such as Alber Elbaz, Nicolas Ghesquière and María Grazia Chiuri, as well as modern icons including Michelle Obama, Grace Jones, Madonna and Tina Turner.
His take on body-con dressing was peerless and instantly identifiable. As a result, Alaia enjoyed a unique level of cult-like, first-name-only-level fame, rivalled only by the likes of Rei Kawakubo and Martin Margiela. A notorious perfectionist, and affectionately dubbed the 'king of cling,' he was born to wheat farmers in Tunisia where he later studied sculpture, a background that would later surface in his work.
Alaia would go on to pursue a fashion career in Paris where he eventually joined the team at Christian Dior for a short-lived stint at the house. Work with Guy Laroche and a string of private society clients followed. 'From two seasons at Guy Laroche, I learned how. From the last elegant women in the world, I learned what,' he once said.
Alaia's fervent fan base grew from there, as women sought him out for his distinctly sensual, sculptural work that highlighted the body, rather than concealed it.
He was particularly famous for his iconic shows of the Eighties and Nineties, which often featured the original Supermodels Naomi Campbell — whose career he helped build after unofficially "adopting" her at the age of 16 — Cindy Crawford, Helena Christensen and Linda Evangelista.
Meanwhile, his dinner parties in Paris were famous experiences unto themselves, mostly because one never knew what famous faces would be in attendance. Guests ranged from the pop-culture A-list (Rihanna) to fashion elite (Rei Kawakubo.)
The couturier made headlines this past July when he returned to the Paris catwalk to present his first couture collection in six years, re-awakening his loyal fan base while gaining new followers through the frenzy his return created on social media. Long before the likes of Vetements began to question the traditional fashion calendar and experiment with operating outside of it, Alaia had done so, creating his highly-anticipated collections at his own pace, from his studio in the Marais. 'I can only speak for myself, but for a long time now the system of fashion has had nothing to do with our time — it doesn't suit our time at all,' he told the Business of Fashion. Alaia had planned to open a shop in London in 2018.
This story first appeared on ELLEUK.com.
For more Fashion, head here. Or check out Christopher Bailey Is Leaving Burberry and Victoria Beckham Is Designing A Collection For Reebok.