36 posts tagged "Azzedine Alaia"
Tom Cruise is staging a comeback—again—with Knight and Day, his new action/comedy flick. The jury’s out on that one, but at the film’s Seville premiere, we did find ourselves more interested in his arm candy than in the Top Gun himself. Co-star Cameron Diaz played the leading role on screen and on the red carpet: She was all drama in a Lanvin dress (calculated, no doubt, to show off her fabulously toned legs) with Lanvin pumps, a Fallon cuff, and blazing red lips. Tom’s real-life paramour, Katie Holmes, on the other hand, went for a sweeter look: a pleated Alaïa dress, gladiator sandals, and barely-there makeup. One went diva, one went demure—who wore it best? Do you prefer Cameron’s marquee glitz, or are you feeling Katie’s quiet elegance?
Besides crafting some of the world’s most sought-after dresses, Azzedine Alaïa (pictured) is an avid collector himself. That, as they say, is putting it mildly. The designer not only has his own personal art gallery—part of the store, atelier, and hotel complex he calls home in Paris’ Marais—he’s also in the process of creating a foundation for his genre-spanning collection, which includes everything from couture by Poiret, Vionnet, and Schiaparelli, to design by Marc Newson, to photography by Bruce Weber, Helmut Newton, Steven Meisel, and Horst P. Horst.
But last night chez Alaïa, the walls were covered with press photos, rather than his own holdings. Alaïa hosted the World Press Photo Awards, devoted to the world’s best photojournalism. The grand prize winner this year, an image from Pietro Masturzo’s series From the Rooftops of Tehran, of a woman screaming her disappointment from the roof of her house following the Iranian presidential election, put the host in a reflective mood. “I think this show is particularly important,” said Alaïa. “When I look at some of the poignant images here, it reminds me how privileged we are to be among friends. I thank the sky for that every day.” No word on whether he bought that photo to add to his private stock, or Malik Sidibé’s prizewinning shot (from the Arts & Entertainment category) of two men sporting Viktor & Rolf, Dries Van Noten, and Bottega Veneta (among other designers) from a fashion story in The New York Times Magazine.
The obituaries have already distilled the career to its essence. Joseph Ettedgui, who died yesterday at the age of 74, transformed the international fashion landscape. But what makes his story truly unique was that the grandiosity of such an achievement was underpinned by a nature so humble and unassuming it was easy to forget that the little guy in the corner with the thick French accent, the owlish glasses, the fluff of hair, and the stubble was actually the most powerful man in the room. Although the big cigar might have been a giveaway.
One epochal day in 1972, the little guy was stacking striped sweaters in the window of his hairdressing salon on King’s Road when Michael Roberts noticed him. Then fashion editor of The Sunday Times, Roberts liked the sweaters, used them in a shoot that appeared (obviously) on a Sunday. By Monday afternoon, the entire stock had sold out. And thus was Joseph Ettedgui launched on a Britain that had no idea its appetite for adventurously minimal European style was about to be stimulated. As much as what he sold (those striped sweaters were by Kenzo—he would also introduce everyone from Azzedine Alaïa to Helmut Lang to Martin Margiela to local aficionados), it was the way Joseph sold it, in high-tech, chrome-and-glass stores that had the streamlined ambience of an Art Deco cruise ship. The look may be a retail cliché now, but Joseph pioneered it, as he did the starchitect collaboration (Norman Foster designed his first Sloane Street outlet in 1979) and the in-store café. “He made you feel enthusiastic about fashion,” says Roberts, who remembers Joseph driving around late at night in his Rolls-Royce checking out the window displays in rival stores. “This huge car would come down the street, looking like a runaway Rolls with no one at the wheel. Then you’d see the top of his head and the puff of cigar smoke.”
Roberts went on to create memorable ad campaigns for Joseph. What he misses most is the complete freedom he was given, as though Joseph were the most visionary patron. “It was a Medici kind of thing to be given that kind of treatment,” he says. “It never happens anymore.” Like the best patrons, Joseph was an ardent champion of the new and the young. And he had a fruitful kinship with designers that others found tricky to work with, Alaïa in particular. Katharine Hamnett looks back on “a fantastic working relationship,” which began when Joseph rescued her from penury after a French company she was working for left her high and dry with a bagful of samples. He bought the lot on a sale-and-return basis. “And that was the beginning of one of the happiest times in my career,” Hamnett says. “He enabled things, he trusted his instincts, he loved what he did—and he was very good at it.”