When I went to Atlanta to see Alaïa – Adrian: Masters of Cut at SCAD FASH, I made the trip primarily to see the Adrian suits. I did not expect to be so enchanted with the work of Azzedine Alaïa, so I was so happy to see what I’d been missing.
As I pointed out before, don’t expect a history lesson from SCAD FASH. The docents do a good job of showing additional photos and answering questions, but the truth is, you need to do your own research before visiting. I knew Alaïa as a designer of formfitting dresses and gowns for the rich and famous, but I’d never really thought of him as a tailor. Was I wrong!
I did know of Alaïa as a collector, having had the experience of bidding against him at auction. I didn’t know it at the time, but in an auction of clothing and textiles held just before his death in 2017, Alaïa outbid me on several items of sportswear. It was not until the auction company sent out a notice explaining that because Alaïa had died, the items he had bid on were to be for sale to the first claimant. Seems like there were some Claire McCardell items in the list.
He was quite the collector. I read somewhere that the Association Azzedine Alaïa now manages over 20,000 objects that he had collected.
But today I’ll be talking about his work. This dress and jacket are from 2007. I have always been a fan of pleats, and so this one was a favorite. The pleats are not just in the skirt, but also on the back of the jacket.
It’s hard to tell on such a thick, black fabric, but it looks to be that the pleats are one long piece of fabric, pleated and then attached like godets. Amazing construction!
And yes, all these suits are black. I have them looking like charcoal gray, but that’s so you can appreciate the details.
This superb suit is from 2010, but the dates of these suits really are not the point. Alaïa did not conform to a fashion calendar, and he was more interested in his own sense of style than he was of fashion. Sounds just like Adrian.
This was another favorite, and the reality of this suit is much better than my sorry photo of it. Taking his cues from the traditional man’s cut away coat (and how about that velvet collar?), Alaïa mixes it up by combining it with that hyper-feminine lace skirt. This suit was made in 1989. Do you see what I mean by his own vision of style?
I have no idea how the lace was made, but it could not have been easy.
Alaïa, like Adrian, was fond of fringe. This jacket from 1986 is paired with his leggings. I love my American Giant leggings, but I could sure use a pair of these.
There are no boring backs on an Alaïa jacket.
Same collar, same 1986 collection. This also came in a rich dark blue, but it was not on display here.
That motif is embroidered. There in the background are the Adrian suits.
Okay, I’ll admit the jury is still out on this 2007 dress and capelet. I love the skirt so much, and wanted to just remove the capelet to see if the dress met with my satisfaction. You can see the back of this one in the previous photo.
I’ll finish up the suits with this one from 2012 because it is pretty much perfect.
There was also a stunning selection of Alaïa’s gowns and dresses in the exhibition. As pretty as they are, I just did not find them to be as interesting as the suits. He used a lot of knits, as in both of the dresses above.
Here’s Oscar night along with a refugee from the Grammys. The Grammy worthy leather gown was mind blowing in its construction.
If you have ever sewn leather, you know there are no second chances, that every stitch leaves a hole in the leather. Remarkable!
The long industrial strength zipper circles the body three times. 1981.
Yes, you can get this close, but do not touch.
This gown is actually a beautiful blue that I simply could not capture with my camera. It’s also knit. Alaïa also was a great admirer and collector of Charles James garments, and the influence of James’s “La Sirène” in this gown is unmistakable.
The exhibition also shows how Alaïa referenced the 1930s. If you didn’t know better, you could mistake this confection for a 1930s gown…
right down to the snap closures. Take a moment to notice how this (and all the others) dress was mounted. A clear plastic form was molded to custom fit each dress.
There were also some celebrity worn dresses. Here one of the docents is showing me photos of Tina Turner wearing her Alaïa performance dresses.
Again, this exhibition is well worth a trip to Atlanta, and to make it even better, there was another smaller show featuring designer Patrick Kelly. And thanks so much to Liza at Better Dresses Vintage for sharing the day and her photographs.