Fall 2017 Couture
July 6, 2017
Azzedine Alaïa returned to couture this evening after a six-year hiatus, and it was glorious.
No, I don’t think you understand—it was glorious. From the invitations (or lack thereof), to the show space (his atelier—no air conditioning), to the front row (muses like Rossy de Palma, collaborators and friends like Joe McKenna, designers like Nicolas Ghesquière, and even some of the models’ moms), to the casting (Naomi! Karlie!), it was perfect. Oh, and the clothes. Obviously the clothes. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
Needless to say, Alaïa is a legend, and the news of his return to couture sent a ripple of excitement through the fashion industry. With that in mind, he could have made a really, really big deal about his show, hosting some mammoth thing at some wildly fancy location, with major security and a list of celebrity guests making up the first two rows.
But Alaïa is a class act. He is a reminder that couture is about, well, couture, and his intimate show—around which there was no unnecessary fanfare—was a pure, honest, and insanely fun celebration of his love for fashion and women.
Once everyone had settled into their sticky seats (it was hot, hot, hot!), the music went up and Naomi Campbell, a longtime Alaïa girl, charged out in a white shearling coat with emerald green foliage embroidery that created an intricate, artful texture. Her head was wrapped up in a plastic turban. The audience clapped and cheered and ooo-ed and ahh-ed and the steamy room was filled with a tangible explosion of energy.
What followed was a parade of Alaïa signatures—impeccably constructed coats done in embroidery, leather, or snakeskin that swung as the models walked; va-va-voom leather suits that were at once sexy and straight-laced; tiered chiffon gowns with mesmerizing lines; and, naturally, knits, knits, and more knits.
The textures on the knit dresses were baffling. Karlie Kloss’ black and navy gown, which was inset with panels of sheer black chiffon, boasted rippling strips of knit fabric that looked like armor.
Speaking of, some pleated skirts were inset with what looked like laser-cut metal that shimmered as they moved. A gown with one such skirt was done with a leopard, calf-hair bodice and paired with matching cropped jacket. The metallic embellishments between the pleats of that skirt were somehow—probably by magic—affixed over leopard too. The effect was an optical illusion. It’s fine. I’ll admit it. I gasped.
The collection had everything the Alaïa couture client (lucky ladies, they are) could want—cropped sweaters, leather swing coats like the one Kloss wore during her first pass, day dresses, cocktail frocks, belted coats, you name it. And while the handwork in each garment was unmissable, there was an ease to each look. Totally effortless luxury.
This collection really made me think about couture in 2017. As the week comes to a close, it’s clear that there are a number of conflicting opinions (something I’ll get into in my report), but that there’s no single right answer. To me, Alaïa’s collection epitomized contemporary couture. It was wearable. It was aspirational. Watching it glide down the runway was like observing a ballet, which each fabric moving just as Alaïa intended it to. It was also flattering—good god was it flattering. And more broadly, the show was all about craft, the clothes, and the women wearing them.
Welcome back, Mr. Alaïa. Please don’t make us wait another six years to witness your runway magic.