Azzedine Alaia is a relatively discreet presence on the Parisian fashion scene, prone to working at any and all hours of the day or night — breaking only to share meals in his massive kitchen with a far-flung group of fashion friends.

And it’s been an exceptionally busy year. During Paris Fashion Week, Alaïa will finally unveil his long-awaited three-room hotel — named after the address, 5 Rue de Moussy — and also invite buyers to see a new summer 2005 collection.

Not bad for a designer known for a my-way-or-the-highway stubbornness that in the past meant sporadic collections and infrequent deliveries. He may still be a painstaking perfectionist, but a streak of efficiency and energy has swept into his fashion house since Prada Group purchased 100 percent of it four years ago.

To wit: Net sales at Alaïa more than doubled last year to 5.3 million euros ($6.5 million at current exchange), and a “very positive” trend has continued into 2004, according to a Prada spokesman in Milan.

In an interview, Alaïa confessed: “It’s more my temperament to do only two collections a year, but I do four.”

And so when will the next one be ready, exactly? “I’ll let you know,” he said with a coy smile.

Alas, his on-my-own-terms spirit is intact, along with a mischievous streak well known among his intimates. As much as he is driven to work, he loves gossiping, telling funny stories and lavishing attention on people he likes.

Yet he’s clearly proud of the commercial momentum of his business. In Paris alone, he recently christened major in-store shops in Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marche.

This month, he opened a shop at his friend Rei Kawakubo’s latest out-there retail venture: her Dover Street Market emporium, which mixes Comme des Garçons brands with other designers in a market-like, industrial setting. There, Alaïa sells not only his shapely, sexy clothes, but also select pieces of mid-century furniture and jewelry.

Besides his low-key flagship on Rue de Moussy, Alaïa has about 110 wholesale clients, from specialty stores in small Italian resort towns to major presentations at Barneys New York.

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