Monday, November 18, 2013


The must-see fashion event of the season in Paris right now is an exhibition which pays tribute to the enormous talent of Azzedine Alaia. A fashion iconic giant of the 1980s Alaïa rose to fame with his dramatic yet ultra simple silhouettes that literally melt over the body like wax. In contrast, other distinctive looks include his work with unusual materials like wire filagree embroidered into a bell shaped ball gown, felt dresses steamed into shape over the body and a cage of elastic bands assembled into a slim dress. This exhibition hosted by the Palais Galliera (Paris' other fashion museum) affords the visitor an up close and personal look at the astonishing cutting skills and intricate construction of 70 garments created by this master craftsman.

Draped dress with hoodie made famous by Grace Jones

With the support of his friend Thierry Mugler (for whom Alaia helped create his signature hour glass silhouette), the Tunisian born couturier launched his label in 1979, catering primarily to a private clientele. Though the lines of his clothes were relatively simple, the construction and sometimes choice of materials were fairly complex. Like Madame Gres before him, Alaia often resorts to the same philosophy and training he learned while studying sculpture at the Beaux Arts School in Paris.

Crocodile hide jacket

Though he loves using silk jersey and stretch fabrics to trace the lines of the woman's curves, Alaia also loves stiffer materials like leather and reptile skins which he drapes and fashions into garments with the same agility employed with lighter fabrics. On display is a jacket made of crocodile, a material we know is stiff and heavy. And yet it wraps around the body, sports a collar and is belted around the waist of the mannequin as if it were made of supple wool. His leather draped skirts could have been made from satin. A reptile bustier--fitted to the torso like a second skin--is intricately fitted together like a mosaic masterpiece. And still for another corset, Alaia borrows a technique from saddle makers to mold the leather perfectly to the body without the slightest seam.

Crocodile tail coat.

We marveled over his use of felt shaped into a curvy, flared dress without a hint of construction detailing! Of course there are those marvelous silk jersey gowns with hoods, made famous by his celebrity clients like Grace Jones, Tina Turner, and most recently Rhiana.

More of Alaia "Grace Jones" looks in the background, our girl wears the doll version in black.

The exhibit is on through January 26, 2014. Anyone coming to the French capital between now and then should make a beeline to the Palais Galliera (10, ave Pierra 1er de Serbie. Paris 16. Open Tues-Sun, except holidays, 10am-6pm. Entry 8€).

Sexy draped leather skirt made famous by Tina Turner.

FDS Style Note: for the doll fashion designer, creating clothes inspired by Alaia is an exercise in draping. The leather skirt was glued together at the side seams as explained in our post, "Leather Weather,"and the drapes literally hammered flat! I made a bow then glued it in place. 

The dress started out in 2 pieces: a slim skirt and the draped hood, all cut from fine silk jersey. (Other jerseys are too thick.) A rectangle is pinned to the doll's hair, then tossed over the shoulders and gathered into a small band at the waist. I then attached that band to the waistband of the skirt. There is a bit of bulk at the waist which is why you'll need a belt to pull the dress closer to the body. The back of the hood is gathered at the base of the neck with a running stitch and secured in place. As in the case of Grace Jones when she wore this dress, the doll will need a pin to hold the hood in place over her hairdo.

Perforated Leather fashioned into an elegant gown.

All photos (except for doll overlays) courtesy of Palais Galliera.

Gown created by Alaia specifically for the Matisse Room at the Musee de l'Art Moderne.

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Brrrrrr.......I think it's time to check out the coat closet!!

Location:Paris, France

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