A very special exhibit occurred whilst Couture 2020 took place in Paris at the Hôtel de Ville under the l’association Azzedine Alaïa, what is particularly significant about this showing of Alaïa’s incredible backlog of collected Couture garments, is that it is also showcased the dedication Alaïa had to the finery of style, who was not only a spectacular Haute Couture designer himself, he also believed in storing the history of Couture, in all of its details and significance to fashion. Azzedine Alaïa passed away in 2017 and if we look back at his history particularly when he grew up in Tunisia in the 1930s, as a young man his love and appreciation for the artistry of Couture occurred at an early age, in his late teens he moved to France in 1957 studying form and sculpture at the famed École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Alaïa, upon graduation of this prestiges art school, steadily built up a reputation as a dedicated and focused student of fashion, working for Christian Dior, Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler. It wasn’t until the late 1970s when he started his small atelier from his al rue de Bellechasse apartment, that Alaïa really began to imprint his incredible skills of Couture, for over two decades he outfitted the worlds elite from Hollywood actresses to wealthy socialites. But, it wasn’t until the 1980s did Alaïa’s stature magnify when he switched to Ready-to-Wear collections, with his seductively shaped outfits appealing to the A‑listed celebrities of the 1980s, who became his devoted clientèle.
Yet, for the late Alaïa, we have to go back to a part of his history that occurred in Paris to really understand his love for Haute Couture. And ironically it is this significance of Ready-to-Wear, as a growing industry in the late 1960s which was the precursor for the famed Spanish Couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1968, in a very reluctant and solemn way, he decided to close his established Maison whilst informing all of his clientèle that he would no longer be crafting couture dresses. In this process of Balenciaga’s end of such an illustrious career, he carefully began to itemise and collect the many dresses and coats that the Spanish Master accumulated over the years of his atelier, producing some of the finest and most impressive of 20th century Couture. Four years later in 1972, Cristóbal Balenciaga passed away at the age of 77 in Xàbia, Spain. Prior to his death, a young Alaïa was contacted by Balenciaga’s General Director by the name of Mademoiselle Renée, entrusting the aspiring fashion designer with Balenciaga’s impressive backlog of fabrics and dresses. Offered by the Director to alter and modify Balenciaga’s archived outfits, to which legend has it, Alaïa refused, instead, he gratefully took the impressive array of Couture dresses offered to him back to his small Parisian apartment. Laying them out onto his bed, he then gave an oath that he would never alter these beautifully hand crafted and styled pieces, rather Alaïa decided that he would embark on a mission of passion to collect and archive as many of the Couture greats, so that they may be stored and appreciated for the mastery which they reflect.
And by the 1970s, when many of his contemporaries began to invest into the art markets. Alaïa rather began a process of buying and collecting dresses from the 1930s and 1950s, in fact thousands of pieces not just from the great Balenciaga, but also Gres, Vionnet, Schiaperelli were added to his collections, others who were not as famous, but equal in their skill of cutting and aligning the fabrics in such precision, with an uncanny ability to hide the seams that is of the many intricacies which represents Couture. Alaïa ensured that all of the thousands of pieces that have been collected over the years under his care, that they be protected and stored within France. To which the late designer’s wishes have been fulfilled.
For the first time, Association Azzedine Alaïa, in conjunction with the Balenciaga Foundation will have 80 of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s finest Haute Couture pieces on display at the Hôtel de Ville until the 28th of January 2020, the pieces will also be seen on display, with Alaïa own works at the ‘Alaïa Couture house’. In July 2020, the collection will then be exhibited at the village of Guetaria, Spain where the late Balenciaga was born.
AZZEDINE ALAÏA COLLECTOR — ALAÏA and BALENCIAGA Sculptors of shape is open from January 20th to June 28th 2020 at Hôtel de Ville.
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