Sep 9, 2022
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"Alaïa before Alaïa": an ode to the genesis of an architect of style

Sep 9, 2022

The Azzedine Alaïa Foundation has unveiled  “Alaïa before Alaïa”, a book of retrospection illustrating the moments, people and places that shaped the young Tunisian prodigy into becoming one of fashion’s most illustrious designers. 

Guests browsing through "Alaïa before Alaïa" during the book launch at the Foundation

“Life is what happens before an artist’s work,” argued Emanuele Coccia, philosopher and contributor to Rizzoli’s latest fashion publication. On Wednesday night, the Foundation opened its doors to give way to writer Laurence Benaim's latest artistic homage to the late French-Tunisian designer. The book serves as an appendage to the Foundation's current exhibition (they share the same name), which has been showing since late January of this year. 

On one of summer’s last warm Parisian evenings, friends and members of the fashion sphere’s "crème de la crème" gathered together to listen – intently, with not a mobile phone in sight – to Carla Sozzani, Olivier Saillard, Laurence Benaïm and Coccia guide them down Alaïa’s personal memory lane. 

Carla Sozzani, President of the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation

From his modest childhood in Tunis – during which he admiringly beheld his glamorous twin sister Hafida – to his first show in New York in 1982 (under Thierry Mugler’s mentoring), “Alaïa before Alaïa” retraces the most essential pieces to Alaïa’s emergence as a designer. And in between, of course, one can find within this literary work all the breadcrumbs worth following.

Starting with his five-day stint working at Dior and socialite Louise de Vilmorin’s influence taking him in as her prodigy, to his fittings for Greta Garbo and dinner parties with Orson Welles, this new book is a timeless piece of memorabilia from those who knew and understood his past. A trail that, ultimately, was responsible for his ascension to glory. A timeline of adventures during which he nourished himself from the women he dressed. Listened. Observed. Admired. Always with a cheeky, disarming smile. Until he finally felt comfortable enough to create. 

Some of Alaïa's creations on display at the "Alaïa before Alaïa" exhibition

“Alaïa was always a child, gazing in wonder at the world around him,” recalled Carla Sozzani, close friend of Alaïa’s and president of the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation. Together with Olivier Saillard, fashion historian and director of the Foundation, she orchestrated “Alaïa before Alaïa” not as an oeuvre but as an heirloom: something precious to remember one by, to exchange about during lively dinner parties, to give onto the next generation of youth. A collection of private snapshots and anecdotes, reawakened instances brought to life by rare illustrations, fashion photographs and interviews. A tribute to the life that in turn gifted the world the work.  

"Alaïa before Alaïa" is out now and and can be bought at the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation or  www.rizzolibookstore.com.

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