Azzedine Alaïa is known for a lot of things: his “figure-sculpting” silhouettes, as Vanity Fair proclaimed in 2012; his friendship with and mentorship of the supermodel Naomi Campbell; his seeming total and utter disregard for the conventions of the fashion calendar. Each year, Alaïa’s ready-to-wear shows take place at his own convenience, often off the official calendar; his Spring 2017 show took place in October, a month after Paris Fashion Week had wrapped. He makes couture pieces, which are only sold at his original boutique on Paris’s Rue de Moussy, but hasn’t shown couture since 2011.
Until now. After a six-year hiatus from showing a couture collection, the famed French-Tunisian designer will return to the runway—and he’s even aligned himself with the official couture calendar for the occasion. On Wednesday, July 5, slotted into the schedule just after Valentino and just before Fendi, the Alaïa Fall 2017 couture collection will debut.
Alaïa’s penchant for doing things his own way has earned him legions of fans and a cadre of loyal supermodels: In addition to Campbell, he also counts Grace Jones, Natalia Vodianova, Stephanie Seymour, and even younger stars like Kendall Jenner and Joan Smalls among his admirers. Michelle Obama, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga have all worn his pieces. At his last couture show in 2011, the packed front row featured the likes of Kanye West, Sofia Coppola, and fellow designer Donatella Versace, according to WWD.
And his couture collections are particular happenings: That Fall 2011 show was his first runway presentation in eight years, across both couture and ready-to-wear. Though the French designer got his start as a couturier, he began designing ready-to-wear in 1981 and had, more recently, abandoned showing couture. So it may have taken him six more years to follow up his last runway effort in 2011, but that’s precisely what we’ve come to expect. For any other designer, returning to couture on the couture calendar would be protocol. For Alaïa, who always takes his time, it’s an event in itself.
Azzedine Alaïa once drew on socialite Susan Gutfreund's body with chalk: