Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Azzedine Alaïa the Couturier...

'I make clothes, women make fashion'-Azzedine Alaïa

Hello lovelies!

A few weeks ago on a weekend away in London, I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the new and improved Design Museum to see Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier.  Given how obsessed I am with fashion and couture, Alaïa is a designer that I knew very little about, so I was really intrigued to see his creations in the flesh and to have the opportunity to learn about him and share them with you lovely people!

Who was Azzedine Alaïa?

Born in Tunis, Tunisia in 1935, Azzedine Alaïa was a bit of a fashion rebel.  Ignoring the collections calendar, he stayed loyal to his true love of creating and upholding the traditions of Haute Couture.  He knew what he liked to design and refused to conform to trends in his work.  Studying at the School of Fine Arts in Tunis before moving to Paris to work briefly at Christian Dior during Yves Saint Laurent's tenure, it is clear to see where his love of couture began.  He deeply admired couturiers Madeline Vionnet, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Charles James and this was reflected in the fine finishing of his work.  Being a lover of figure and form, he was a purveyor of the aptly named 'second-skin dressing' and he was known for experimenting with stretch materials and leathers as a result.  His work meant he had nowhere to hide; he used a simple colour palette and quite often chose  black for his garments letting his talented craftsmanship do the talking.  He created beautiful garments for beautiful women, concentrating on elegance, sensuality and making women feel beautiful and empowered.  Alaïa sadly passed away in November 2017, but had a hand in the curation of this exhibition; his presence is felt throughout and his designs have certainly stood the test of time, blurring the lines between haute couture and ready-to-wear, he was an exceptional talent.

The exhibition was split up into sections, so I have arranged my photos accordingly to give a better feel for how it looked in the room, with a little bit of information about each section; enjoy!

Sculptural Tension

Alaïa's artistic education began when he trained as a sculptor in Tunis.  He manipulated fabrics in a way that most sculptors would manipulate clay or marble.  Working with his hands, he moulded his fabrics and often used unusual and difficult materials, such as metal and leather in his garments.

Decoration and Structure

Avoiding the preconceived rules of haute couture, Alaïa preferred to use materials that were patterned such as lace or broderie anglaise in his designs as opposed to the traditional use of applied decoration.  Lining his lace garments with dyed, flesh-coloured fabrics created an added illusion of nudity and sensuality.

Revolutionary Skins

I think the following quote from the exhibition guide really helps to sum up Alaïa's use of leather:

'Leather is a material I sometimes wanted to male more feminine, more delicate, more fragile.  I treated it in the same way as other haute couture fabrics.'

I absolutely adore the nude, neutral coloured leather dress from this collection-it is the epitome of femininity!  Alaïa used leather in many of his designs throughout his career, but in a way that challenged its usual connotations of rebellion or sex.  By working with the material alongside softer fabrics such as chiffon, he constantly challenged the boundaries of the material, thus presenting it in many unexpected forms.

Exploring Volume

Known more for his figure-hugging creations, you may initially find it rather unusual that Alaïa also enjoyed exploring volume.  Conveying both his respect of fashion history and the grandeur of costume, it is also clear in these pieces how much Alaïa respected the work of Balenciaga (visit my post on the Balenciaga exhibition, to see the strong connection between Balenciaga's work and the style of Alaïa's use of volume here)

Other places, other cultures

Alaïa's Tunisian cultural influences cemented a strong relationship to African culture, often reflected in his work.  Avoiding stereotypes, he preferred to reflect Africa as a lifestyle through use of unusual materials such as flax rope, raffia, shells or crocodile skin in his garments.

Spanish Accent

Alaïa often represented other cultures in his work, with influences from Spain appearing again and again throughout his fashion history.  The gowns shown here are a loose representation of traditional flamenco-inspired Spanish dress.  This style originally featured in his 2011 haute couture collection but has been reimagined in more vibrant and dynamic shades.

Black Silhouettes

Black was Alaïa's preferred colour and featured heavily in his work, both combined with brighter colours and used as a stand-alone.  Sometimes the intricate details were lost in the colour (such as in the gown above-my favourite from the whole exhibition!) allowing the focus to be on the woman wearing the dress as opposed to the attention being all about the garment itself.  It is only on closer inspection that the beauty of Alaïa's craftsmanship can truly be revealed.

Renaissance Perspective

Velvet was another of Alaia's preferred materials of choice, due to its tactility, ability to hide complex seams in its pile and for its connections to richness and luxury.  The dresses featured here were originally based on the dimensions of Naomi Campbell but were then elongated after multiple transformations to resemble the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti and the exaggerated proportions of fashion illustration.

Fragility and Strength

Forever breaking the boundaries of the expectations of certain fabrics, Alaïa not only managed to give leather a sense of fragility, he also used chiffon in a way that gave it strength, sensuality and empowerment.  Laid against the skin, it added a sense of eroticism to his work, stripping the fabric of its associated innocence.


Dress famously worn by Tina Turner

'There is an evolution, but fashion hasn't changed so much.  The body is the most important thing.'

The main focus of Alaïa's work was timelessness; he refused to conform to trends and created pieces that borrowed ideas from history but he reinterpreted them in a modern way.  Unlike other designers or other collections I have seen, there was a complete sense of elegance, timelessness and wearability in this exhibition; Alaïa achieved his objectives, as his work certainly feels modern and would sit comfortably alongside most haute couture collections today.  With Alaïa, it was all about eternal beauty, structure and form, allowing his work to most definitely stand the test of time.

Wrapped Forms

Alaïa used stretch fabrics and wrapped forms to enhance and transform the silhouette of the wearer.  His bandage dresses cling to the wearer's form as opposed to being anchored at certain points of the body, such as the waist and hips.  Inspired by Egyptian mummification and debuted in 1986, these dresses are most famously known as being the style worn frequently by Grace Jones and were the basis for 'bodycon' dressing which famously defined the aesthetic of the early 90s.

So what do you think?

An amazingly talented man and a wonderful exhibition, I urge you to visit the Design Museum to visit this wonderful exhibition before it closes.  Seeing his work in person gave me a great sense of respect for the man behind the designs and the detail and intricacy of his craftsmanship is truly inspiring and breathtaking.

Until next time,

Kay xx

Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier runs until October 7th at The Design Museum (buy tickets here).  I was not asked to write this post, I loved the exhibition and wanted to share it with my lovely readers!  All opinions and photographs are my own and most of the information used was pulled together from the exhibition guide kindly given to me on visiting the exhibition.  It was a joy to visit; I learnt so much!

Monday, 21 May 2018

An evening with In the Frow @ Fenwick, Newcastle

Hello lovelies!

I hope you've all had a marvellous weekend!

Although I've been blogging for a long time, I don't really have much free time to read other blogs but I try to when I can.  I'm a massive fan of fashion bloggers, and my three favourites that I always try to catch up on are Sofie Valkiers' Fashionata, Garance Doré's Atelier Doré and of course the wonderful Victoria Magrath's In the Frow.  When I heard that Victoria was coming to chat fashion at Fenwick, Newcastle, I thought it would be a great opportunity to get together with my blogging bestie Krissi for a fun fashion-filled evening, with a side of Prosecco!

Arriving at Fenwick, Newcastle

We were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and a goodie bag, and took our seats in the glamorous  French Salon to await Victoria's arrival.  Interviewed by head womenswear buyer at Fenwick Newcastle, Catherine Newton, Victoria arrived wearing the most fabulous Ganni dress and Dior shoes, she looked very chic!  Catherine and Victoria talked us through nine looks available at the French Salon, perfectly put together for summer events to give us ladies some fashion inspiration (I'll include links to all underneath the photos).

Victoria wore a Ganni dress and Dior shoes-I'm so in love with the shoes!

The first look of the evening was this beautiful Self-Portrait star mesh midi dress.  Perfect for a summer wedding, this dress is simply breathtaking.  The black ribbons give it more depth, so it would look equally as chic with black heels, or dressed down with a leather jacket.  I'm planning to get married next August and have bought a non-bridal Needle and Thread dress for the occasion, but after seeing this beauty, I may need to rethink my look!!

 Rixo London, Space Age Floral, £315 paired with Michael Kors bag

The second look came from Rixo London, and offered a lot of versatility, as accessories could be matched to any of the colours in the dress' detailing.  Victoria and Catherine chose these amazing electric blue accessories, giving a fun and summery twist to the look.  I loved this dress so much!

Look three, was another from Self-Portrait, this beautiful mini lace V-neck.  I'm a real lover of all things navy, so I absolutely adore this dress.  The days of not being able to wear dark colours for summer weddings are officially over!  Perfect for long, slender pins!

 Rixo London, £304.99 (Jules B)
Look four was another Rixo dress, this time full of vibrant colours perfect for summer, but paired down with black accessories for a more chic look.  Imagine how good this would look with a black Chanel 2.55 swinging from your arm?  I'd pair with my small black Cavalli Class bag and French Connection black point-toed heels-I may have to invest!

 Alexander McQueen, shirt £350, pants £385

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved look five, as I've never really been a fan of the pyjama suit, but how chic is this?  Paired with heels, it would be the ultimate in wedding comfort and is super glam!  I'd pair black accessories with the black trim and wear minimal jewellery-such a statement piece!

 MSGM, £378

Look six certainly has the wow-factor!  This beautiful orange, asymmetric drape-dress is breathtaking.  It's fun, vibrant and totally summer.  I could definitely see this strutting along the French Riviera and I think it would look equally amazing with some flat sandals for a more chilled summer look.

Looks seven and eight, both Self-Portrait, show two contrasting styles from the brand.  The first, the bardot-top navy maxi dress (worn by Victoria recently in Cannes) is my favourite of the two (although with my short legs I think I'd have to alter it!!).  Stunning lace detailing, I think this is a perfect holiday dress which would perform equally as well in a more formal setting.  The second dress looks amazing teamed with a pop of blue, and would be perfect for an English country garden party.

Burberry, £950

Look nine, was one of my favourites.  A piece of Burberry history from Christopher Bailey's final collection for the house-you could easily confuse this as a Victoria Beckham or Celine piece.  More formal workwear than summer-wedding, I loved it's simplicity (but I am a biased Burberry lover!).

After answering some of our questions and giving some great style tips, we were invited to chat to Victoria in person and get some photographs with her.  She was warm, friendly, bubbly and full of personality, just as you'd expect after watching her Youtube account.  We chatted style, her gorgeous shoes, hairstyles and Cannes-it was so lovely to meet her!

From someone who is just taking her first baby steps into a fashion career, Victoria truly is an inspiration!  Thank you to both Fenwick Newcastle for hosting and to Victoria for being there; we had such a wonderful time!

Until next time,

Kay xxx

All dresses are available also at Fenwick, Newcastle in the French Salon.  We purchased tickets for this event; all opinions are my own-I had a great evening.  All links to dresses were corrected at time of posting.  Photography is a combination of mine and Krissi's, please ask before using-thank you xxx
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