A new exhibition dedicated to the late Tunisian designer Azzedine Alaïa opens at London’s Design Museum today. Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier was co-curated by the designer himself before his sudden death last year and celebrates his enduring legacy – sensuous, ‘second-skin dressing’ that experimented with shape and volume. Worn by everyone from Grace Jones and Tina Turner to Naomi Campbell and Rihanna, an Alaïa creation combines his rigorous technical skill with an understanding of how women want to feel. Keep reading to discover the 5 things we loved at the 60-piece archive exhibition.
1. The icons
Amongst Alaïa’s famous bandage dresses, voluminous gowns and intricate embroidery, there are outfits worn by Tina Turner, Grace Jones and Naomi Campbell – including a gown modelled on the catwalk by the supermodel at his final ever couture show in Paris last July.
2. The celebration of the female form
Alaïa created special elongated silhouettes for the mannequins in the exhibition, which really shows off the glamour of each of the dresses. The designer himself once said that ‘my obsession is to make women beautiful,’ and with these statuesque creations, exquisitely draped, cut and pinned, it’s easy to see just how they would flatter a woman’s figure.
3. The (other) artworks
Each Alaïa piece is a work of art in itself. The designer had strong relationships with people working in other creative disciplines like art, dance, music and design – a connection emphasised by the screens that serve as backdrops to the dresses. Each metal and glass screen has been specially commissioned by Alaïa’s friends, five leading figures in contemporary art and design: Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec; Konstantin Grcic; Marc Newson; Kris Ruhs; and Alaïa’s partner, Christoph von Weyhe.
4. The photographs
The exhibition also presents portraits of Alaïa’s life and career captured by photographer Richard Wentworth. Between January 2016 and July 2017, Wentworth was granted rare access to Maison Alaïa, the fashion house in Paris where the designer worked for over 30 years. Each photograph gives an insight into the elaborate processes of making couture – rolls and rolls of fabric, a pair of hands sewing – as well as the warmth and chic simplicity of Alaïa’s working environment.
5. The film
Ellen von Unwerth’s film for the exhibition details the process before, during and after an 1990 Alaïa show. Keep your eyes peeled for Helena Christensen reading a book with her hair in rollers and Christy Turlington drinking a beer while standing on a bar in Paris.
Photography by Mark Bower
Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier runs from 10 May – 7 October 2018 at The Design Museum in London