Azzedine Alaïa. Photo: Alexandre Guirkinger.

Azzedine Alaïa (1935–2017)

The fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa has died at the age of eighty-two, according to a report from Vanessa Friedman in the New York Times. Born in 1940 in Tunisia and raised on a wheat farm outside the city of Tunis, Alaïa was first exposed to art and design by a midwife who helped many members of his family, and who later registered him at the School of Fine Arts in Tunis, the designer said, “against my father’s will.”

While in school, he found a job in a small dress shop and met two wealthy girls whose cousin wore Christian Dior and Balmain dresses; it was through her that he found work with a dressmaker who made copies of Balmain clothing. A friend of the cousin served as the connection that eventually led Alaïa to Paris in 1957, where he worked for Christian Dior. After opening his own maison in 1979, Alaïa introduced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980. His signature clinging leather pieces and knits earned him the moniker “king of cling.” The label’s designs have been highly sought after since the 1980s.

In 2007, Compagnie Financière Richemont bought a majority stake in the business, which allowed it to expand at its own pace. Alaïa’s label returned to the haute couture calendar this past July, after a six-year absence. He also worked in other realms off the fashion calendar, creating costumes for the ballet and opera and also mounting art exhibitions, starting in 2004, in the space that houses his showroom. The designer’s work was the subject of an exhibition at the Musée Galliera in 2013, which Christina Catherine Martinez covered as a Critics’ Pick for

Alaïa’s atelier comprised a complex of buildings on rue de Moussy in the fourth arrondissement, where he both lived and worked. He is survived by his partner, the painter Christoph von Weyhe, and his nieces and nephews.