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The Secret Alchemy of a Collection

Start Date 02 July 2018
End Date 06 January 2019
Venue Fondation Azzedine Alaïa
Location Paris, France
Curator Olivier Saillard
Four tailored outfits are displayed on black poles in front of translucent tubular backdrops. The far left is a brown riding-style jackets with white trim and a white shirt and brown pleated skirt. The other outfits include three white tutus; two of which are covered by blue riding-style jackets

In 1987 Azzedine Alaïa bought the former “hôtel des évêques de Beauvais” in the Marais where he moved in 1991. It was to be both his new work place and home. It was from here that he received the inspiration for his first collection in the new atelier, Summer 1992.

During the renovation work, Alaïa was surprised to discover frescos on the walls. Driven by his curiosity, he wanted to learn everything he could about these works of art. His patient research was rewarded. Alaia discovered that a young girl, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, had once lived in his building. The young girl would later take the name of Madame de Pompadour. Alaïa liked to think that it was here where she would have studied with the best teachers of the day and been taught dancing, drawing, painting, engraving, theatre, and all the arts that opened for her the path to the court of Versailles.
Pompadour was not born into the aristocracy, but her power and influence on the Kingdom of France was legendary. These shadows of Pompadour’s presence expanded Alaïa’s imagination. Pompadour’s authority and grace in all matters of beauty and style became for Alaïa the symbol of the freedom of what was truly feminine.

He started to work on his Summer collection with these images planted in his mind; incorporating elements reminiscent of XVIII century gowns and corsets,  with the hint of a pannier,all in delicate “broderie anglaise”.
But the frills and lace were in contemporary Alaia style, with closely fitted body silhouettes. Shirts were gathered up at the back, and were short, which made them easy to move around in; practical, with a nod to the stripes of more masculine shirts and jackets. Masculine fashion lines also appeared in short jackets and long sleeves, as well as redingotes and light coats, halfway between a cape and an overcoat. And he added humorous and ironical trompe l’oeil “mon coeur est à papa”, while embroidered and printed floral motifs decorated the stretch dresses. The 1992 Summer collection was the largest Azzedine Alaïa had ever presented with over 115 outfits. Months and months of preparation went into the conception and execution of each piece. Always personally crafted by him, his creative work was done in the solitude of his new home, standing at the table in his studio during long nights spent cutting and sewing. All of his emotional forces were joined and grew into this collection where his fascination with Madam Pompadour met his fascination with the power and freedom of a truly feminine woman.