One of fashion’s most revered yet reclusive players has finally announced a return to the retail world after more than two decades of absence: Azzedine Alaïa, whose last store shuttered in New York City in 1992, will be settling into a new home at Rue de Marignan, right off of Avenue Montaigne (otherwise known as French luxury mecca).
Also known as the “King of Cling,” Alaïa’s heyday in the ‘80s had him dressing everyone from Grace Jones to Stephanie Seymour in his figure-flattering, body-con designs. Even Cher (not that Cher—the Clueless Cher) knew the gravity of Alaïa – remember the scene when she tells the armed robber who screams at her to get on the ground “Oh, no. You don’t understand, this is an Alaïa”?
After the death of his sister though, the Tunisian-born designer retreated from the industry for most of the ‘90s, only catering to a small group of clientele and presenting his collections (on his own time, of course) in his apartment/atelier/headquarters in the heart of the Marais district. In other words, Alaïa had the fashion world come to him: he didn’t advertise, he didn’t get online and he didn’t get sucked into what he called a “stressful” system. He didn’t even bother kissing up to Anna Wintour, even daring to say “who will remember Anna Wintour in the history of fashion?” Unsurprisingly, she didn’t take well to that — the two have been engaged in a longstanding feud for years that’s seen Alaïa completely ousted from the pages of Vogue.
Even without Wintour’s backing, the past decade has been a period of revival for Alaïa’s eponymous brand, especially after partnering up with luxury goods group Richemont in 2007. For instance, last year Barneys doubled their Alaïa space, the designer showed his Fall 2011 couture collection to rave reviews (also marking his first time at Fashion Week in eight years) and as any Sofia Coppola fangirl knows, he designed her stunning lavender wedding dress.
The question now is, given the designer’s well-known skepticism of the business side of fashion, will he be able to make a return to the retail world without sacrificing his independence?
Tiffany Yannetta, associate editor at Racked: “If you just so happen to be a big-name Paris fashion brand who hasn’t had a store open since 1992, how would you choose to open it? With a bang? Or instead, would you nestle it in Paris and keep the address far from the ears of plebeians?” [Racked]
The Cut: “Alaïa is opening a Paris flagship. For the uninitiated, he’s like a totally important designer. #cherhorowitzwisdom” [Twitter]
Bernadette Morra, editor-in-chief: Azzedine Alaïa has always marched to the beat of his own drum and is not likely to change at this stage in the game. His brand has thrived because it is available to very few. His designs are exquisitely crafted and expensive. They are not supported by more accessible products such as fragrances and lipsticks. And there are very few places in the world Alaïa can be purchased. So opening a shop in the Avenue Montaigne luxury district simply makes a very special label even more special.”
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