Alaïa Walks the Dotted Line
Azzedine Alaïa recently showed his Fall ’13 collection his way: Quietly and off schedule, with a small presentation at his Paris studio and showroom, well after the end of Paris’ dedicated ready-to-wear-week. Below, Style.com correspondent Alex Veblen weighs in on the collection. Read on for more, and a slideshow of Alaïa’s Fall looks.
Minutes before the informal show (held, as usual, in Alaïa’s sun-drenched Marais showroom), we were advised that the Fall collection would be “reduced.” The designer has been busy working on the costumes for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s production of Le Nozze di Figaro (Jean Nouvel is overseeing the staging). But no disclaimer was necessary. If Alaïa is feeling overworked, it certainly did not show. The Tunisian-born designer has been working with the same Italian knit mill for the last three decades. There is something acutely metaphoric in considering that you can find a continuous thread throughout a hypothetical Alaïa catalogue raisonné. And indeed, this season you will still find many familiar conceits: the bell-shaped skirts; the ribbed body-con dresses; the dense velour; the crisp, stylized white shirt.
But Alaïa also introduced a new motif, and it’s one that has staying power. The knits had sprouted orderly rows of dimensional dots—or “pois” (peas), if you prefer. In some cases, they ran longitudinal down the torso; other times, they served to demarcate the knit pleats or ran horizontally as a pseudo hemline. They also zigzagged in rows of two and danced down leggings. The effect was rhythmic and technical in equal measure. It was colorful, too, but on a much subtler level. The dots occasionally shifted to Lurex green or red, as if he flipped on the switch of dance-club light. The metallic yarn reappeared as a much larger solid statement; at this point, a retailer could be heard swooning. But the piano-key black-and-ivory looks were the sharpest. One fun standout: a double-faced dress with vertical bands of rose, mint, and sand popping out through the black openwork.
Along with a few ingenue flourishes (compact polo collars, black bow-tie belts, and baby-doll silhouettes over jumpsuits), he showed longer skirts and wide velour pants that on first impression might be interpreted as a mature counterpoint. But actually Alaïa wasn’t making a point about age; his point was freedom. At least, the accompanying song “Freedom” (sung by Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton), from Django Unchained, suggested as much. And maybe this also explains why, for the first time, he showed an in-between 90-mm heel height. After all the luxe lacquered croc coats last Fall, the designer relegated the exotic skins to accessories and footwear. Perhaps this was what was meant by “reduced.” No matter. All that stiffness gave way to a flirtier collection. Certainly, it had kick.
A few blocks from Alaïa’s showroom, a new exhibition on the history of Haute Couture has been mounted at the Hôtel de Ville. An Alaïa bandage dress circa 1990 stands out like the ribbed rebel amid the finery and embellishment. Next fall, when the Musée Galliera reopens, an Alaïa retrospective will be the marquee show. It’s safe to assume there will be a lot of dames in dots on the opening night.
Click here for a slideshow of Alaïa’s new collection >