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Alaïa Afore Alaïa: The Genesis of a Style

Start Date 28 January 2022
End Date 31 December 2022
Venue Fondation Azzedine Alaïa
Location Paris, France
Curator Olivier Saillard
Exhibition view showing ablack and white graphic of Alaïa's designs photographed by Peter Lindbergh, alongside the design.

Alaïa Afore Alaïa” is an unprecedented and original exhibition, conceived and produced by the Foundation wanted by the designer some years before his death.

Through archive documents, photographs and drawings, the exhibition analyses the formative years between the 1950s, just before the budding couturier would leave Tunis and move to Paris, to the early 1980s and the emergence of the Alaïa phenomenon.

A rigorous selection of pieces from the beginning of his career, a selection of designs that revealed to the public something far beyond a singular style, a founding body of work dating from the late 1970s dialogues with timeless clothes, truly an intimate map of his eternal sources of inspiration.

Alaïa Afore Alaïa” brings to light a portrait of the talented couturier, modest on the subject of his younger years, a twenty-year long period throughout which the world would be his school, and women his greatest teachers. Whilst others of his generation developed their design skills within the walls of a school, or in the workrooms and studios of existing fashion houses, Azzedine Alaïa was perfecting his technique, a technique that would become unparalleled over the course of his encounters with the growing circle of women that surrounded him. They were his protectors, supporters, select clients, they would become paths of inspiration for his entire body of work.

During these edifying decades, a veritable underground archeology of his ambitions, Azzedine Alaïa met many important figures who would remain faithful to him for the rest of his life. From his sister Hafida to his lifelong friend Latifa, from Leila Menchari to Nicole de Blégiers, encounters favored only by fate when talent and friendship are combined. They are also the result of journeys that coincide, encouraged by the exchange and development of art in all its forms.

To his bedside couture atelier, the greatest names came rushing. For Greta Garbo, he made oversized masculine coats in which she could wrap herself in anonymity. Arletty was a devoted and unconditional fan. His close relationship with the literary figure Louise de Vilmorin invited him into artistic circles and guided him in the ways of high society. He would be her mirror.

In addition to the growing number of client orders which accumulated daily at rue de Bellechasse, Azzedine was constantly experimenting, barely sleeping, and always working. Working with the great furriers, he perfected his technique. A collection of studded, cinched leathers was turned down by Charles Jourdan, but paradoxically, this collection was the seed that would grow and bloom into the Alaïa phenomenon. The pioneers of the fashion world swore by him. He was invited to New York where he was universally acclaimed. The designer Thierry Mugler, a close friend, further encouraged him. Azzedine had become Alaïa.

Beneath the great glass roof of the gallery, at the very heart of his posthumous foundation where he hoped that the exhibitions would bring together as many people as possible from all walks of life to meet, “Alaïa Afore Alaïa” shares rare accounts, delicate stories, and archive documents. Dresses, born from these three seminal decades, alongside more recent creations inspired by his eternal subjects, reveal a gallery of portraits of those who, certain of his great and unique talent, supported him in the growth and development of his art.