Wednesday, 25 July 2012


Glamour, Sensuality, Style, Cut, Self-Confidence and the list can go on forever.
Few of the words I would use to describe my two favourite couturiers Azzedine Alaïa and Elie Saab..
They still draw their own patterns with chalk, show their collections when, how and where they feel like, 
and most important, managed to survive the corporatist fashion world.

I won't 'spam' you with pictures or youtube shows, you can find those with a simple google search. 
I just wanted to remind/let you know that few real couturiers still 'exist' and they do amazing jobs..

 Alaïa, monograph by François Boudot (New York: Assouline, 2007), showing Alaïa
and opera singer Jessye Norman in the costume he designed for her for the Bicentennial of the French Revolution
Elie Saab - PFW - Ready To Wear - Fall/Winter 2011 - Show
The article may seem a bit too 'long' for those who follow my regular 'street style' posts, 
but way too short for those who appreciate the art of fashion and the last real designers!


Azzedine Alaïa is by far the couturier I appreciate the most. Tunisian-born, Alaïa lied about his age to get himself into the local École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis. Soon after his graduation, Alaïa began working as a dressmaker's assistant and started dressing private clients. In 1957 he moved to Paris to work in fashion design, starting his career at Christian Dior as a tailleur, but soon moved to work for Guy Laroche for two seasons, then for Thierry Mugler until he opened his first atelier in his little rue de Bellechasse apartment the late 1970s. In this tiny atelier, for almost 20 years, he dressed privately the world's jet set, from Marie-Hélène de Rothschild to Louise de Vilmorin (who would become a close friend) to Greta Garbo, who used to come incognito for her fittings.

He produced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980 and was voted Best Designer of the Year and Best collection of the Year at the Oscars de la Mode by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 in a memorable event where Grace Jones carried him in her arms on stage!
 During the mid-1990s, following the death of his sister, Alaïa virtually vanished from the fashion scene, however, he continued to cater for a private clientele and enjoyed commercial success with his ready-to-wear lines.

 He then signed a partnership with the Prada group in 2000. Working with Prada saw him through a second impressive renaissance, and in July 2007, he successfully bought back his house and brand name from the Prada group, though his footwear and leather goods division continues to be developed and produced by the group.In 2007, the Richemont group (Cartier, Van Cleef) took a stake in his fashion house but he still does not show during the collections.

Alaia is revered for his independence and passion for discreet luxury. Catherine Lardeur, the former editor and chief of French Marie Claire in the 1980s, stated in an interview that "Fashion is dead. Designers nowadays do not create anything, they only make clothes so people and the press would talk about them.The real money for designers lie within perfumes and handbags. It is all about image. Alaia remains the king. He is smart enough to not only care about having people talk about him. He only holds fashion shows when he has something to show, on his own time frame. Even when Prada owned him he remained free and did what he wanted to do."

Michelle Obana, Carla Bruni and Madonna, are few of Alaïa's regular clients. In 2008 he was named Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur by the French government

How could someone not love and appreciate Elie Saab? The Lebanese couturier is self-trained and launched his fashion label when he was 18 years old (he started sewing as a child, making dresses for his sisters at the age of 9, and knew that one day he would make a living out of it). 

He moved to Paris in 1981 to study fashion, but his passion and talent took him back to Beirut where he opened his workshop. In 1997 Saab was the first non-Italian designer to become member of the Italian Camera Nazionale della Moda. He became an overnight success, and in May 2003 the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture invited him to become a member, and in July of the same year he showed his first haute couture collection in Paris. 

No need to talk about his clients..From Celine Dion and Angelina Jolie, to Queen Rania of Jordan and Victora, Crown Princess of Sweden.

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