Designer Spotlight: Azzedine Alaia

Hola Fashion People!

Today it’s time for a bit of fashion history. Today we will discuss Azzedine Alaïa – one of Michelle Obama’s favorite designers. Ms. O wore the formal black knit sleeveless dress with a ruffled skirt designed by Alaïa to the NATO dinner (pictured below). Her choice of fashion by this French couturier broke the tradition of American First Ladies wearing styles by American designers to such event

I first heard the name Alaïa when I was about 14, watching my favorite movie, CLUELESS – When mugged at gunpoint, Cher (Alicia Silverstone’s character) protests kneeling in a parking lot in a famously clingy red dress (seen on the cover of the hit movie) by the “totally important designer” by exclaiming, “It’s an Alaïa!”


So who is Alaïa?

Alaïa was born in Tunis, Tunisia in 1935.

As a teen, he lied about his age to get him into the local École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis and began studying sculpture where he gained valuable insights into the human form.

After his graduation, Alaïa began working as a dressmaker’s assistant. He soon began dressing private clients, and in 1957 he moved to Paris to work in fashion design. In Paris, he started to work at Christian Dior as a tailor, but soon moved to work for Guy Laroche for two seasons, then for Thierry Mugler until he opened his first atelier in his little rue de Bellechase apartment the late 1970s. For 20 years, from his tiny studio, he dressed the world’s fashion elite, including Greta Garbo.

He produced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980. By 1984 Alaia was voted Best Designer of the Year and Best collection of the Year at the Oscars de la Mode by the French Ministry of Culture.

By 1988, he had opened boutiques in three cities including Paris. His seductive, clinging clothes were a massive success and he was named by the media ‘The King of Cling’. Alaia’s dresses focus on the desired female form- an HOUR GLASS shape. Commonly, an Alaia dress focus on a defined waist. Devotees: Grace Jones, Tina Turner, Raquel Welch, Madonna, Brigitte Nielsen, Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, Carine Roitfeld and Carla Sozzani.

His clothes are available in Barneys New York alongside Lanvin, Balenciaga, and Dolce & Gabbana, and his shoes are sold at Bergdorf Goodman.


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