Worth Visiting – Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at London Design Museum

Conceived and co-curated with Monsieur Alaïa prior to his death in November 2017

The exhibition examines the work of one of the most respected fashion designers in history.

Over 60 rare and iconic garments spanning Alaïa’s esteemed career are on display alongside a series of specially commissioned pieces by leading designers.

The Design Museum in London presents Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier, a major exhibition exploring the late designer’s unique creative talent and the timeless beauty of his work.

Envisaged and curated by Monsieur Alaïa and Mark Wilson, Chief Curator of the Groninger Museum, the exhibition comprises designs stretching throughout Alaïa’s career from the early 1980s to his last creations. The display provides a unique examination of the designer’s personal approach that defied the rules of fashion. Alaïa would work on certain pieces for years at a time and would display his creations when they were ready, not when the fashion season dictated.

Azzedine Alaïa was recognised during his life as a master couturier who expressed the beauty of a woman’s form in the most refined degree of haute couture. The exhibition presents his work as Monsieur Alaïa himself intended – grouping his designs to provide a narrative into the ethos of this maverick designer.

Azzedine Alaïa designed by draping and sculpting by hand on his models, meticulously cutting all his own patterns. The exhibition presents over 60 outstanding examples of his craft over the course of his career including the zipped dress, the bandage dress, the corset belt, the stretch body, perforated leather, as well as iconic pieces made in his early years as a couturier, always with an eye to magnify a woman’s body.

Dividing the gallery is a series of specially commissioned architectural interventions by leading artists and designers with whom the he entertained a long-term creative dialogue – Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec, Konstantin Grcic, Marc Newson, Kris Ruhs and Christoph von Weyhe. Inspired by and complementing the garments on display, the commissioned works allow Alaïa’s designs to take centre stage, a purist approach that the designer rigorously maintained throughout his career.

This exhibition is presented against a backdrop of photography by the artist Richard Wentworth. Between January 2016 and July 2017, Wentworth was given rare access to Maison Alaïa, the fashion house in Paris where Azzedine Alaïa worked for over 30 years. In photographs, he captured the detail and texture of couture production, as well as the building in which rolls of fabric are transformed into wearable sculpture.

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier is the first exhibition of Azzedine Alaïa in the UK and provides an exploration into one of the greatest and most respected fashion designers in history. His personal approach, the particular rapport he established with his muses, models, clients and friends and his quest for perfection created a designer virtually without peer.

Fashion world celebrates the opening of Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier at the Design Museum, London

Hosted by Azzedine Alaïa Association, Deyan Sudjic and Alice Black

Guests included: Naomi Campbell, Carla Sozzani, Christoph von Weyhe, Manolo Blahnik, Philip Treacy, Suzy Menkes, Anya Hindmarch, Farida Khelfa, Marc Newson, Charlotte Stockdale, Zandra Rhodes and Stephen Jones

Naomi Campell attended

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier is the first exhibition of the work of Azzedine Alaïa in the UK and provides an exploration into one of the greatest and most respected couturiers that the world has known. Envisaged and curated personally by the late Monsieur Alaïa and Mark Wilson, Chief Curator of the Groninger Museum, the exhibition showcases pieces created throughout M. Alaïa’s career from the early 1980s until his most recent work in late 2017. The exhibition provides a unique examination of his personal approach, craftsmanship, innovation and quest for perfection that made him a couturier virtually without peer. His designs are presented with custom installations created by some of his favourite designers – Marc Newson, Konstantin Grcic, Ronan & Erwan Bourellec, and Kris Ruhs – all of whom he shared close personal relationships with. The installations celebrate his lifelong passion for contemporary desig n, which he shared with his closest collaborator Carla Sozzani. Paintings by his life partner Christoph von Weyhe and photography by Richard Wentworth are also presented throughout the exhibition.

“I am not a designer, I am a couturier.” Azzedine Alaïa

The Design Museum is the world’s leading museum devoted to architecture and design, its work encompasses all elements of design, including fashion, product and graphic design. Since it opened its doors in 1989 the museum has displayed everything from an AK-47 to high heels designed by Christian Louboutin. It has staged over 100 exhibitions, welcomed over five million visitors and showcased the work of some of the world’s most celebrated designers and architects including Paul Smith, Zaha Hadid, Jonathan Ive, Miuccia Prada, Frank Gehry, Eileen Gray and Dieter Rams. On 24 November 2016, The Design Museum relocated to Kensington, west London. Leading architectural designer John Pawson has converted the interior of a 1960s modernist building to create a new home for the Design Museum giving it three times more space in which to show a wider range of exhibitions and significantly extend its learning programme.

The Design Museum’s relocation to Kensington was made possible through the generosity of major donors, trusts and foundations, statutory bodies and corporate partners as well as donations from many individual donors and supporters, including all Design Museum Trustees.

Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund supported the project with a grant of GBP 4.9 million and Arts Council England awarded a capital grant of GBP 3 million.