Fashion world mourns the death of Azzedine Alaïa. According to French media reports French-Tunisian designer has passed away at the age of 77.
Born in Tunis on 26 February 1940 to wheat farmers, Alaïa was an early devotee to Vogue and cheated his way into the local Institut Supérieur des Beaux Arts in Tunis to study sculpture. He noted that "when I realised I couldn't be an amazing sculptor, I changed direction" - segueing into fashion. He began assisting a dress-maker and, having built up a private client base, he moved to Paris in 1957. He soon got a job at Christian Dior, in the midst of the Algerian war, but was dismissed for having incorrect immigration papers.
The Sphinx-like designer, once dubbed "the King of Cling", was highly revered for his garments that moulded the body into extraordinary proportions, the product of an obsessive craftsman who bears more resemblance to a sculptor than a fashion designer.
From Dior he went to Guy Laroche, where he spent two seasons, then to Thierry Mugler, but a series of high-society patrons allowed him to set up his own workshop. Elegant swans such as the Comtesse of Blegiers offered him lodgings in exchange for dress-making and babysitting. Hollywood stars such as Greta Garbo and the Seventies jet-set, which included Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, came regularly for fittings.
In 1980 he produced his first ready-to-wear collection, which was championed by the then doyennes of fashion, Melka Tréanton of Depeche Mode and Nicole Crassat of French Elle, who both regularly featured his work in their respective magazines.
That same year the designer moved to larger premises in Paris and by 1988 Alaïa had opened boutiques in Beverly Hills and New York. During the mid-'90s Alaïa partially retired from the fashion scene for personal reasons. However he continued to cater for a private clientele and enjoyed commercial success with his ready-to-wear lines.
Over the years he continued to create collections to the beat of his own drum, eschewing the traditional seasonal calendars, from which he retired in 1992: “When the collection is ready, it’s ready,” was Alaïa’s attitude. He showed a surprise couture collection in July, his first since 2011, in which Naomi Campbell made a rare catwalk appearance to rapturous reviews.