Why is Alaïa The King of Cling?


The London Design Museum is currently showing the exhibition “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier”. It is a fantastic exhibition you should not miss because of so many reasons.

The new LDM, located in Kensington since the end of 2016, is worth a visit on its own right; the fabulous building is the result of a collaboration of great designers and Allies and Morrison, the architecture practice known for their modernist buildings.

One of the leading museums of contemporary architecture and design in the world, the Design Museum is the perfect location to exhibit the work of Alaïa, whose clothes are as much fashion as sculptural and architectural works of art. 

Azzedine Alaïa; when art and sculpture meet fashion design

Azzedine Alaïa himself conceived and co-curated the exhibition, preparing the outfits, which were custom-fitted to the mannequins. He chose around 60 garments, from the 80’s until his last creations at the end of 2017, when he suddenly passed away at the age of 82. He also selected the artists - and friends-  who made backdrop wall-size screens that reflect from different angles the beautiful dresses. 

Azzedine Alaïa's architectural dresses are part of the exhibition of his work at the London Design Museum

The Tunisian-born couturier came from a wheat-farm family. He studied sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis, and to pay for it; he worked as a dressmaker with his sister. After moving to Paris and working for designers such as Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler, he opened his private atelier. By the 80s, he’d already dressed all the jet-set, from Marie-Hélène de Rothschild to Greta Garbo, and in 1984, he received the Best Designer of the Year award. 

The tiny designer, AKA “The King of Cling” because of his trademark bandage dresses, zipped dresses and corset belts that shaped women’s bodies fantastically, was one of the few designers who knew how to cut the patterns and sew the garments, which he did on the body of the models to achieve the perfect fit. By the way, the supermodels of the 80's as Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell and Linda Evangelista would work for free in exchange for one of the fabulous garments he had sewed on their bodies.

Alaïa respects and sublimates femininity in its maximum expression,” explained Olatz Schnabel, a former Alaïa's model-muse turned designer. “He makes women look and feel incredible. Everybody respects him in the fashion industry, and we women adore him.”

Women loved him indeed. Among his famous clients were Tina Turner, Madonna, Grace Jones, Carine Roitfeld and Carla Sozzani, the creator of 10 Corso Como.

Alaïa remained independent until the end, not following the fashion world calendar and held shows only when he felt his collections were ready. About his clothes, he said: “My obsession is to make women beautiful. When you create with that in mind, things can’t go out of fashion.”

the signature Zipper dress among other works of art of the fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa, on display at the London Design Museum

The exhibition ends on the 7th of October, so hurry! But if you can't go to London, don't be sad, you can always get the book "Alaïa: Livre De Collection - The Secret Alchemy of a Fashion Show", available at the Design Museum shop.

Photos via The Design Museum