Maison Alaïa's new Editions collection makes digital debut in La Gaîté Lyrique
The house of Azzedine Alaïa's new Editions collection made its digital debut on Wednesday with a performance inside the La Gaîté Lyrique theater in Paris, which was as succinct as one of the designer’s razor-sharp jackets.
Planned as a celebration of the house’s newest project, a heritage collection called Editions, the online debut was a five-minute performance by Moroccan dancer Hajiba Fahmy, dressed in a signature Alaïa swirling white cotton sleeveless dress.
Majestic, sensual and strong, Fahmy danced to Protest by Chapelier Fou, before a black and white video montage of the Alaïa-style detailing – the lattice works; an intermix of cut-out circles and triangles and Arab Andalusian embellishments that marked his oeuvre.
Editions is a selection of 30 classic looks taken from existing designs created by the legendary Tunisian-born designer, who died in November 2017 aged 82.
The initial selection idea came from Carla Sozzani, who is the president of the Fondation Alaïa, which controls Azzedine’s archives and his unique private collection of fashion and design objects.
“This whole idea started when Alaïa passed away. A few days after we found ourselves in front of a huge archive and the fact that nobody can ever be Alaïa. People said, you can't just keep doing these things over and over. How do you touch Alaïa’s work? So I thought, let’s create the products that he never produced. Something he made but never wanted to do again. I chose the first looks. Beautiful stuff he had refused to do as he had already done them,” Sozzani told FashionNetwork.com.
Pre-show, the Maison Alaïa Instagram account hinted at what was to come with mini videos to explain his mix of knit, lace and crinoline strips. Recounted by actress Elsa Zylberstein and scripted by noted French fashion editor Sylvia Jorif. An experimental Editions project, 3D-mappings illuminated every detail of the pieces, capturing the sensations and emotions that suggest these designs as remarkable living things. “Heritage becomes transmission,” is the house’s tagline.
The designer himself always showed off-calendar, skipping the established official Paris Fashion Week schedule. He preferred to always stage his shows inside his own headquarters on Rue de Bellechasse in the historic Marais district of the fourth arrondissement. And, then, amid the most thunderous applause, barely take a bow.
Editions is designed to be a wardrobe from the Alaïa archives, a permanent offer accompanied by a selection linked to each seasonal collection.
Each look is a recreation of an original by the designer, taken from a body of work spanning the years between 1981and 2017. Among the featured pieces are a long black body-contoured knit dress from Summer 1993; a deconstructed jacket from Summer 1990 worn with a flared skirt from Summer 2008; a crisp white poplin shirt from Summer 1986 paired with a corresponding skirt from Summer 1987. Another look from 2013 is made in a 3D tightly woven jacquard knit that captures the purity of his style and references silhouettes from the Spanish Masters paintings he so admired. While fans can also enjoy some of his classic leopard prints, a look the designer immortalized in his work.
“Each item has a special label with the date and the season and the year. We think it's a good way to keep the integrity of his work and see how timeless it is. Like a great full, large coat I have from 1988 that Azzedine created but never produced after. So we put it in Editions,” laughed Sozzani.
Prior to his passing, the house had produced a collection called the Intemporals, meaning 'timeless' in French.
“While he was still here, Azzedine wanted to really concentrate on couture and special pieces. When I asked him to create certain looks I particularly admired, he’d respond, ‘Oh, I did that before!’” she recalled.
The digital performance was presented by Naomi Campbell, one of Azzedine’s favorite models, who frequently stayed in the designer’s compound when she first came to Paris as a young model.
“Naomi is an icon and very much part of the Alaïa family. She grew up with the house and is part of our DNA. Moreover, Azzedine always said he needed his girls around to be inspired,” noted Sozzani.
The actual brand, now generally known as Maison Alaïa, is controlled by the giant South African-owned luxury group Richemont, though somewhat unusually compared to the history at other famous houses, Alaïa’s brand and foundation actually link very well. At a major house like Yves Saint Laurent, for instance, there is practically no interaction between that designer’s foundation and the current house.
It was Richemont who appointed Myriam Serrano to be CEO of Maison Alaïa, and it’s a pick which obviously pleases Sozzani.
“Myriam is lovely. Our relationship is very close,” she notes.
Looking ahead, Sozzani stressed that the foundation plans more exhibitions whenever the lockdown ends, underlining how close the relationship is between the foundation and the fashion house.
“We share the same maison and courtyard. Though to the outside world there is only one name, Alaïa. And I am very glad we have done so many exhibitions and have a very close collaboration. It’s very good to see this strong link. Alaïa would have loved this. He would be very happy the integrity of his work was not touched. The foundation was his dream for his work and for his collections,” said Sozzani in a phone call from her legendary concept store and fashion in Milan, 10 Corso Como.
Maison Alaïa also organized live viewing events with today’s digital debut - at a Shanghai art gallery, or on a Dubai rooftop - though not unfortunately in Milan.
“Not possible here as were are still in lockdown. But we just got great news today that we can open on Saturday in Milan. And also finally in Paris! Back to life! A good omen,” concluded Sozzani.
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