For our second “Designer Who Is” we are featuring the designer Azzedine Alaïa.

What we know about Azzedine Alaïa off the top of our heads?

We don’t really know much of anything about the Azzedine Alaïa brand off the top of our head. We first encountered the name a couple of years ago when we saw Beyonce wearing a fierce pair of Alaïa ankle boots. After that we started seeing Alaïa booties all over the Internet. Of course we wanted a pair, but you know the story.

So aside from having seen and liked some of their shoes we were clueless about Azzedine Alaïa up until the moment we decided to no longer just wonder who/what’s behind the name but to actually go and find out.

Now we feel like we’re Alaia aficionados – well not quite. But we do at least now know a little bit more about Azzedine Alaïa than we did before.

So who is Azzedine Alaïa?

Azzedine Alaia posing with Lady Gaga
Image featuring Azzedine Alaia posing with Lady Gaga – via Google Images – via ladygaga.wikia.com

According to Wikipedia, Azzedine Alaïa (Arabic: عز الدين عليّة‎‎French pronunciation: ​[azedin alaˈja], pronunciation: Alaya) is a Tunisian-born couturier and shoe designer who first rose to prominence in 1980.

Confession: We’ve been totally mis-pronouncing the name. We thought it was pronounced A-la-ee-ya.

Azzedine Alaïa was born in Tunis, Tunisia, sometime around 1940.

Azzedine Alaïa Laser-cut glossed-leather waist belt
Image via net-a-porter.com – Azzedine Alaïa Laser-cut glossed-leather waist belt

He started out as a dressmaker’s assistant (according to his wiki). From there he moved on to “dressing private clients”.

He moved to Paris in 1957 and very briefly worked as a tailor at Christian Dior. After some time with Guy Laroche and then Thierry Mugler, he opened his first shop in his apartment at rue de Bellechasse. This was in the late 1970s. And (again according to his wiki) he worked out of his apartment shop for almost 20 years privately dressing the likes of Greta Garbo and Claudette Colbert.

The Azzedine Alaïa aesthetic

Azzedine Alaia dress
Azzedine Alaia dress – image via Style.com – Photo: Ilvio Gallo

The one theme that keeps repeating in the articles we’ve read about Azzedine Alaïa designs is body consciousness. Azzedine Alaia is said to have an appreciation of the female form that is reflected in the figure-sculpting fashions he designs.

From a 2012 Vanity Fair article titled “All Eyes on Alaïa”:

For the last half-century, the world’s most fashionable and adventuresome women have turned to Azzedine Alaïa for body-enhancing clothes that give them beauty, sensuality, and confidence, thanks to the meticulous craftsman’s peerless adulation of the female form. (source link)

In the same article Alaia is credited with “introducing into the fashion lexicon such present-day wardrobe staples as”

  • Leggings
  • Decorative metal studs
  • Bodysuits
  • Push-up bustiers
  • Bandage dresses
  • Perforated leather
Azzedine Alaia black top leggings look
Image via Style.com – Photo: Ilvio Gallo

The article, written by Amy Fine Collins, is very lengthy and informative. We definitely recommend giving it a read if you want to gain greater insight into the world of fashion at large and be better able to answer the question “who is Azzedine Alaia?” (article link)

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