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PARIS — The fashion community poured out tributes to Azzedine Alaïa, an iconic couturier of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, following his death here at age 77.

The cause of death on Saturday was heart failure.

The diminutive Tunisian-born designer was known for his structured, exacting tailoring and his refusal to bow to industry timetables and marketing pressures, preferring to work at his own pace.

He gained international fame in the Eighties because of the success of his evening dresses, snug knits and sculpted leathers, and was nicknamed “The King of Cling” because his clothes fit like a second skin.

SEE ALSO: Azzedine Alaïa Talks Creativity and Copy Cats >>

Alaïa counted Carla Sozzani, founder of the concept store 10 Corso Como, and supermodel Naomi Campbell — who called him Papa — among his inner circle. Celebrities such as Tina Turner, Madonna, Michelle Obama, Grace Jones, Raquel Welch, Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus were among his customers.

Azzedine Alaïa and Carla Sozzani

Azzedine Alaïa and Carla Sozzani  Stéphane Feugère

Sozzani told WWD that Alaïa died peacefully and without suffering. The pair were out and about as recently as Nov. 7, when they attended the opening of an exhibition of Leïla Menchari’s window designs for Hermès at the Grand Palais. Alaïa had known Menchari, a fellow Tunisian, since arriving in Paris in the Fifties.

The designer was deeply respected by his peers, with Giorgio Armani, Miuccia Prada, Rei Kawakubo, Alber Elbaz, Donatella Versace, Riccardo Tisci, Rick Owens, Anthony Vaccarello, Jean Paul Gaultier, Maria Grazia Chiuri, Donna Karan and Stefano Pilati among those who paid him tribute.

Johann Rupert, chairman of Compagnie Financière Richemont, which owns Alaïa’s business, said the designer was “not only a colleague but a great friend, so it was with shock and enormous sadness that I heard of his untimely passing. The industry has lost an exceptional talent. He was a man of integrity and kindness who was also a true creative genius. With his unique approach to couture, he created a distinctive style that will forever set his creations apart. Azzedine will be missed by all of us who had the good fortune to work with him.”

A company spokesperson declined to comment on Richemont’s future plans for the house. Over the next few months, the designer was set to open his first London flagship, at 139 New Bond Street, a space that will span 6,000 square feet over three floors.

Kawakubo said what she admired most about the designer “was that he worked with his heart and soul.”

“Everything has been said about his work, but I know of nobody as generous and as kind,” added her husband and business partner, Adrian Joffe. “He was a beautiful human being. I will so miss getting drunk on vodka with him, his twinkle in his eye and his wicked sense of humor. As Joan Didion said, when a single person is missing for you, the whole world seems empty. Azzedine is missing for all of us who loved him and the world does feel very, very empty.”

“I always admired and appreciated his intellectual honesty and the originality of his thinking, which are very rare qualities,” said Miuccia Prada.

Armani called Alaïa “a designer of great talent, who worked on the shapes and proportions of the body as a sculptor, exalting a sensuous and almost timeless beauty. He greatly influenced fashion without ever having been part of the system or complying with seasonal trends. He was an individual voice, who followed his own aesthetic course in total freedom and for this was much loved and admired.”

Tisci lauded his convictions: “He always believed in his vision, never compromised himself selling his soul to anybody. He’s been always about quality, not quantity, and he never cared about social and fashion trends. From him I learned to be faithful to your identity.”

Tisci also noted Alaïa’s fun-loving streak, recalling “an interesting night hanging around Paris in a multicolored lights Alaïa van with a group of close friends playing and dancing his favorite music — Shakira, Madonna, Beyoncé, Mariah Carey.”

Diane von Furstenberg said, “Alaïa loved to sew and cook. He used needles and threads to sculpt around the body of the woman…transforming her into a goddess of beauty and strength…there was no one like him.…He was intimidating…but admired by all.”

Karan said, “I think he set an example that I wish the rest of the industry would follow. It wasn’t about, ‘What’s new, what’s new, what’s new.’ It was about, ‘What’s right.’ He was forward thinking about understanding a woman in her body.

“He was sort of a designer I was in awe about,” she added. “What he did with fashion — the fabrics, the shapes, the silhouettes, and the superiority of black you know is something obviously that I love so much. He had this ability to sculpt the body, and make it long and lean.”

Vera Wang called Alaïa a “true modern couturier” and a “complete technician in every domain, and an artist with a clear and unique vision of women which always remains relevant.…He will remain irreplaceable and unforgettable.”

The designer’s “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections, anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything.

SEE ALSO: Azzedine Alaïa on Fashion’s Pace >>

“It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” Alaïa told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.”

He famously liked to present his creations according to his own agenda outside of the show calendar – highly intimate affairs that were held in his Rue de Moussy headquarters in Paris’ Marais district.

“It’s a question of time. There are very few of us in the studio. I have only two assistants, there is nobody else and I do a lot of things myself, especially all the fittings. I don’t just give the drawings and leave,” he explained. “The truth is, I work more than all the others. That’s the difference. I don’t do eight collections, but I’m implicated in everything from the beginning to the end. I even control the deliveries, I look at the stores, what’s working, what’s not.”

SEE ALSO: Azzedine Alaïa Shows First Couture Collection in Six Years for Fall 2017 >>

Campbell opened his last couture show in July with, sitting side-by-side front row, Farida Khelfa and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who recalled “the shows here with all the girls, and days and days spent here, sometimes for fittings, sometimes just hanging out.”

Also front row was photographer Jean-Paul Goude who, in one of his signature collage images, immortalized a pint-sized Alaïa leaping into Khelfa’s arms. “I will never take you in my arms like that again and it’s extremely sad,” Khelfa wrote Saturday on Instagram alongside a copy of the image.

Naomi Campbell on the catwalkAzzedine Alaia show, Runway, Fall Winter 2017, Haute Couture Fashion Week, Paris, France - 05 Jul 2017

Naomi Campbell on the catwalk at the Azzedine Alaïa show.  Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

“He was the designer’s designer,” said a rueful Elbaz. “He was a master of the work he was doing. He was a true engineer of clothes.”

Elbaz also praised Alaïa’s generosity, for he was always hosting an array of fashion and art-world types in his kitchen, and then repairing upstairs after midnight to work on patterns and prototypes.

“If we talk about empowering women today, he did it, and he did it his way,” Elbaz told WWD. “When women wear Alaïa, you see the woman and then you see Azzedine.”

Asked what he learned from the designer, Elbaz said, “The importance of not having a formula and doing it your way and trusting your intuition and not be part of a system. We saw the freedom in his clothes, the love and the control.”

“Today we lost an indisputable genius,” said Versace. “Both my brother Gianni and myself loved him very much and admired him not only for his unique creativity, but most importantly for the person he was and his huge heart. He left an indelible mark in fashion and [my daughter] Allegra and I will miss him a lot.”

GALLERY: Azzedine Alaïa Through The Years: A Look Back >>

Owens said: “Mr. Alaïa represented an aesthetic purity and integrity that we see so rarely. We are so fortunate that he shared his creative vision with us.”

“A true master who brilliantly combined technique, couture know-how, tradition and modernity,” is how Gaultier recalled him. “The curves of the world’s most beautiful women were sublimated by Azzedine Alaïa.”

“Azzedine Alaïa made me want to do this job: his celebration of women’s bodies and the assurance he gave them have always inspired me,” noted Vaccarello. “I was fortunate enough to meet him recently with Naomi. I was touched by his kindness. I feel sad today, but privileged to have known him.”

 

Though he defied the industry’s rules, Alaïa earned the respect of its most prominent leaders.

Azzedine Alaïa  Alexandre Guirkinger

“He succeeded in building, while always maintaining his creative freedom and a smiling independence, a house of great prestige and a highly recognizable aesthetic identity,” said Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

“In the fashion world, he was a great, a major couturier,” said François-Henri Pinault, chairman and ceo of Kering.

“Everything was at the top with him: couture, art, the standards he aimed at, his dedication to his work, his mastering of techniques, and all the women he dressed. He was an artisan in the noble sense of the term, and a man fiercely attached to his freedom. He was a friend,” he added.

Ralph Toledano, president of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode, French fashion’s governing body, said Alaïa was like family. “Going to his place was like going to a second home,” said the executive. “He was exceptionally kind, modest, decent and generous.”

Toledano said Alaïa was also proud of the continued success of his brand since its purchase by Richemont in 2007. The conglomerate invested in staffing, and a three-story flagship in an 18th-century mansion in Paris that opened in 2013.

“He set his own path, he was courageous, and he did it his way. He never compromised. That’s unique,” he said. “He had everyone at his feet. He played by his rules, but when you saw him, he spoke to you like a brother, like a friend. He was totally humble. He personally dressed the models backstage at his shows.”

Toledano said that although Alaïa was irreplaceable, his brand has a powerful heritage that should ensure its survival. “I think he was the only living designer that invented a style,” he noted.

Sidney Toledano, the outgoing chairman and ceo of Christian Dior Couture – who is unrelated to Ralph Toledano – said he and his Tunisian wife Katia considered Alaïa a close friend and recently dined with him.

“He was in great shape,” he recalled, while noting that Alaïa maintained punishing hours. “He was not a stressed man, but he worked a lot.”

The Dior executive praised Alaïa for his purist approach, which shunned marketing in favor of a focus on product. “He believed in clothes, he believed in creation. He had his own style. He never wavered from this line, with a conviction that commanded respect,” he said. “He had an incredible knowledge of fashion history. He was a big collector. In fact, I think he had a lot of Dior and Balenciaga dresses.”

Indeed, Alaïa acquired bag loads of Balenciaga dresses following the house’s closure in 1968. He subsequently created a foundation to house his collection, which also includes outfits by contemporary designers including Kawakubo, Vivienne Westwood, Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe.

“He will be remembered as one of the great designers of this century. I always had this dream that he would one day design a Bar jacket to be included in a Dior runway show. He knew it better than anyone. He came to all the Dior shows,” Toledano said.

A fashion drawing of an Azzedine Aiaïa’s design.  Claude Parent

Chiuri, creative director for women’s wear at Dior, said: “An incomparable master of cut, his work exalted the female body. I was very touched by his support when he attended my first show at Dior, and he leaves behind him an extraordinary legacy that will inspire generations to come.”

Pilati considered Alaïa a model to follow.

“As a designer, you start at early age to want to emulate the masters of fashion that inspire you, and dream one day you will be one of them. Among few, there was always Azzedine,” he said. “Mr. Alaïa was so unique, incomparable, inimitable, and with a power, a vision, a skill, a talent and a style like no other’s.”

Pilati said the designer taught him to appreciate “the importance of letting yourself drown in your research, your scope, your design, your obsessions, your passion.”

As for his uncompromising ethos, Pilati said it was neither a marketing tool nor simple nonconformism “because he was led by the passion and the love for his work, once fully accomplished in his heart, in his eyes. And in passion as in love, there are no rules: There is all your only and lonely true self.”

“He was the hero of fashion. His talent, his passion for the craft, the superiority of his skills were above all,” said Natacha Ramsay-Levi, creative director of Chloé.

“He had imposed his way of doing, from all his talent he was able to impose his own rhythm, his own system. And the man, the generosity, the witty spirit, the intelligence, a propagandist for arts and culture and philosophy. We miss him already so much,” she added.

Julien Dossena, creative director at Paco Rabanne, called Alaïa “one of the rare masters of our profession, a virtuoso genius of couture. His immense body of work, of a unique precision and modernity, contributed to the creation of a strong and new femininity.”

Lebanese designer Rabih Kayrouz said Alaïa was one of the last existing couturiers who inspired him. “He designed beautiful clothing until the very last minute,” he said. “His passion, his determination, his vision inspired me enormously.”

Hervé Pierre said, “In New York years ago, I was invited to the opening of an exhibition called ‘Azzedine Alaia and the Last Supper paintings series by Andy Warhol.’ It was in SoHo, I think  in a space owned by David Bowie and Iman, who were there. A woman arrived at the party completely naked with just a lot of makeup, perfume and high heeled shoes. Intrigued by her behavior, I needed to know why she would come  completely naked to an art opening. She told me that  she called the PR office of Alaïa to borrow a dress and they refused. (You don’t borrow an Alaïa dress!) Even though she was furious that she could not have a dress for the evening, she said the best way to pay homage to Alaïa was to come naked, because basically a dress from him has the same characteristics of being naked. It follows the body, and it molds the body…He was there of course.

“It’s tragic that we lost such a genius. He was the only remaining couturier in the world who could cut and sew an entire dress by himself. He was like Rodin taking a big piece of raw marble knowing there was a ‘woman’ inside…We will continue to see women wearing him for years and years to come.”

Having worked with Alaïa on a number of red-carpet looks, including the customized white gown Lady Gaga wore with red gloves to the 2015 Oscars, Brandon Maxwell said alterations of any kind were never needed when a woman ordered one of his dresses. “He set the bar. I always admired his deep devotion to his work and to his friends. It was a life I admired from afar and up close. It is the standard for which we should all be judged really. He woke up every day surrounded by his work and he went to bed every night after being surrounded by his friends. What else could you want from your life than that?

“He defined what fashion was about and should be about. It’s not about the Champagne, the parties or anything like that. For him, it was just the strength, joy, power and happiness that he gave to women. He was the true definition of using your gift to help others.”

Instagram was full of tributes from industry figures including Giambattista Valli, Mariacarla Boscono, Francesco Scognamiglio, Peter Som, Cameron Silver, Fausto Puglisi, Audrey Marnay and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, who posted a sketch representing a diminutive Alaïa as “the little boy from Tunis.”

Marc Jacobs wrote: “A true artist, genius and master. He was always kind, friendly and supportive of me. He welcomed me when I first came to Paris. We had some great adventures and many good times. His talent is unparalleled and his playful character generous, naughty and wickedly unique. The exceptional beauty he created is timeless and will without question last forever! I pray that Azzedine will rest in peace 💔💔💔.”

“Bonjour tristesse 🌹😪❤️💔 arrivederci,” said Bruni-Sarkozy.

Azzedine Alaïa  Alexandre Guirkinger

“A sad day. Rest in peace @azzedinealaiaofficial …The world is a far less beautiful place today without you. You were a true master and one of my biggest inspirations 🙏🏻 x VB,” added Beckham.

Tisci wrote: “One of my biggest inspirations! The one who never followed anybody in the fashion world but followed by everybody! The special and loving friend! I will always love and respect you! And celebrate you the way you taught me…I will miss you🖤.”

Madonna, too, was among those who paid tribute to the late designer on Instagram: “GOD Bless this. Talented and Beautiful Soul! ♥️🌺♥️🌺♥️ Azzedjne Alaïa ♥️🌺♥️🌺🌺♥️! I was so Lucky to know him. Work with him and laugh with him!! 🙏🏻 May he rest in Peace! 🙏🏻 @stevenmeisel_,” she said.

Lady Gaga wrote: “I’ll mourn forever the loss of my friend. A true genius in not only fashion but in his heart. He was a king and had the highest standards of design and work ethic. He was so giving, so loving, his heart so full and pure. I️’d watch in awe as he hand made each and every piece, his fingers touching the fabric like poetry. Then he would want to feed us all, and cook with his own hands and talk for hours at the table while his dogs would run around joyfully smelling the delicious food he made us. To say he was special would be an understatement. To say he was integral, important and influential to fashion is simply not enough. There was no one who did what he did. No one knew a woman’s body like him. He should be celebrated as one of the greatest fashion designers the world has ever known. I️ love you, Azzedine. I️’m devastated I️ didn’t get to say goodbye. I️ love you.”

“I will miss you so so much Azzedine…you were the warmest, most clever man with the ability to make changes in an industry that craves and needs them desperately…this world was a better place in so many ways having had you and I will miss you very much…sad sad day x Stella,” added Stella McCartney.

British make-up artist Pat McGrath said: “What did Azzedine Alaïa mean to me? Everything. The rigour, refinement and rebellion of his work was at a level that can never and will never happen again. He is irreplaceable. He was a true master. But more than that, he was a wonderful person. What I’ll miss the most are those long evenings in his kitchen, with him cooking, surrounded by good friends, great conversation and divine food. xxPat.”

Sophia Neophitou, the stylist, editor of 10 Magazine and a close friend, said the designer’s “talent shone like a beacon of light in a sea of darkness. I will treasure his unconditional, fierce love and loyalty and can only be grateful that I was part of his magical world.” She said he had a “true sense of mischief and laughter and love and constant dedication in everything.”

Details of funeral services were not immediately available.

Born in Tunisia in 1940 to wheat-farming parents, Alaïa’s love of fashion was inspired by his twin sister Hafida and family friends. The neighborhood midwife, Madame Pineau, gave him copies of Vogue from an early age and suggested he study at the Beaux-Arts in Tunis, which he did.

He came to Paris in 1957 to pursue fashion design, and thanks to an introduction from Menchari spent a short apprenticeship sewing labels at Christian Dior, followed by two years as a part-time design assistant with Guy Laroche.

Most importantly, Alaïa won the friendship of prominent women like Simone Zehrfuss and Louise de Vilmorin. During this period, he lived as an au pair and dressmaker for the Marquise de Mazan and subsequently the Comtesse Nicole de Blégiers, with whom he stayed for five years.

These women fostered his dressmaking ability and introduced him to an elite private clientele, who eventually included Marie-Hélène de Rothschild, Claudette Colbert and the French film star Arletty, who remained a lifelong creative inspiration.

Indeed, Alaïa drew his aesthetic from unexpected sources. He recalled that a 1988 collection of wedding dresses for Pronuptia was inspired by the nuns of the order of Our Lady of Sion, who taught his sister in Tunis. He also credited them for his love of crisp white shirts, which appeared in most of his collections.

Alaïa understood women, and his knowledge of women’s bodies was remarkable. He observed their tastes and movements from an early age and he learned pattern-making, cutting, fitting and pressing, all of which he did himself.

Naomi Campbell on the catwalkAzzedine Alaia show, Runway, Fall Winter 2017, Haute Couture Fashion Week, Paris, France - 05 Jul 2017

Naomi Campbell at the Azzedine Alaïa Couture fall 2017 show.  Giovanni Giannoni/WWD

The women he dressed in Paris became his first clients and helped him to move in 1964 with his partner, painter Christoph von Weyhe, into an apartment-cum-workshop on the Rue de Bellechasse. There one of his first customers was Greta Garbo, who demanded an extra-large navy coat.

After several years of showing his collections to editors at home, he officially founded his Paris fashion house in 1979 at the behest of Thierry Mugler, creating leather gloves and stenciled bustiers.

In 1982, Alaïa produced his first ready-to-wear line and was voted designer of the year by the French Ministry of Culture. In 1983, he started selling his designs in New York and Beverly Hills, and by 1988, he had opened boutiques in Beverly Hills, New York and Paris.

After his first show in New York in 1982, the signature Alaïa look began to emerge. His designs emphasized the figure and were identifiable by their black leather-studded gauntlets, experimental mixes of lace and leather, silk jersey and tweed, and use of zippers and eyelets.

Knit fabrics and little black dresses predominated, and every year Alaïa would extend his palette of fabrics. He began to experiment with different materials, all of which molded to the body. In 1995, for instance, he created clothes from Relax, an anti-stress fabric that NASA used for wall and floor coverings.

The designer was never one to conform to a trend, and what remained constant with his tailoring was that he followed the same principles as corset-making to flatter the figure and highlight the bust.

“I think I can say that my clothes are timeless, they are made to last,” Alaïa told fashion historian Olivier Saillard in an interview for the catalog of his 2013 retrospective at the Palais Galliera in Paris. “I can start a dress or a jacket one year and have the feeling I finished it 10 years later.”

He was notorious for showing his collections when he felt like it and making sporadic deliveries. He never advertised, and never conformed to any specific production schedule. In the Nineties, business slowed, and Alaïa went under the radar.

In 1992, he lost his sister. Costs of renovating his living space, ateliers and boutique in the Marais spiraled. Alaïa stopped doing shows for a period, but he continued to cater to a private clientele and to sell his ready-to-wear line.

He still had a number of retail accounts, particularly Barneys New York, one of his most loyal and important customers since he launched his label. Sometimes their buyers came to Paris to find that Alaïa hadn’t made a new collection to sell. The designer would simply re-cut old styles.

A vintage Barneys ad for Azzedine Alaïa.

A vintage Barneys ad for Azzedine Alaïa from 1983.  Courtesy Photo

“We have lost one of the greatest talents our industry has ever seen. There will forever be a void in the lives of everyone at Barneys,” Daniella Vitale, ceo of Barneys, said on Saturday. “He was a truly remarkable, gifted yet humble man. We are thankful to have had the chance to celebrate him for his 35 years at Barneys this past August. Personally, I consider the time I spent with him one of the highlights of my career.”

SEE ALSO: Bridget Foley’s Diary: Azzedine Alaïa at Barneys: Happy 35th >>

Alaïa shot back to prominence in the late Nineties because of a renewed interest in looks from the Eighties and a new partnership with Prada, launched in 2000.

Jacobs paid homage to Alaïa in his fall 2000 collection for Louis Vuitton by featuring styles such as zippered skirts and waist-cinch suits, and then the Paris boutique Colette featured some of his looks in their window. That same year, he had a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim in New York.

Alaïa’s business also began to hit its stride. The media interest helped create a surge in demand for his fall 2000 ready-to-wear and couture collections, and the designer expanded his atelier.

Alaïa said he chose Prada from among his other business suitors because its chairman Patrizio Bertelli was the only one who understood his craft and appreciated art.

When Alaïa was ready to expand his business again, Bertelli proved a good match, since he allowed the designer to continue his work autonomously. Under their partnership, Prada design director Fabio Zambernardi helped expand the designer’s collection of footwear and handbags.

In fall 2004, he partnered with Sozzani on a three-room hotel at 5 Rue de Moussy, next to his headquarters, overseeing every detail of it from lamps to furniture. In addition, he opened a new boutique for shoes and handbags and a gallery that frequently hosted art and photography exhibitions.

During the Prada period, Alaïa enjoyed impressive brand resurgence and financial momentum. In Paris alone, he opened major in-store shops in Galeries Lafayette and Le Bon Marché, and also sold his clothes alongside select pieces of mid-century furniture and jewelry at Kawakubo and Joffe’s Dover Street Market emporium. By 2016, he had about 250 doors, including around 80 shop-in-shop configurations.

Julie Gilhart, then vice president and fashion director at Barneys, noted that the Alaïa business advanced as deliveries improved. As she told WWD in 2004, “In terms of design, he just got better and better. He always does new things, but always in the same vernacular. And the quality is excellent.”

A rendering of an in-store installation at Barneys New York featuring the work of Azzedine Alaia. The dresses are exclusive to the store, part of aspecial collection celebrating the designer's 35-year relationship with Barneys.

A rendering of an in-store installation at Barneys New York featuring the work of Azzedine Alaïa. The dresses are exclusive to the store, part of a special collection celebrating the designer’s 35-year relationship with Barneys.  Courtesy Photo

In July 2007, Alaïa regained his independence, buying back control of his house from Prada. The split, however, allowed for a continued collaboration on his footwear and leather goods collections with the Italian company.

In October 2007, Richemont, the owner of other luxury brands such as Cartier and Chloé, became Alaïa’s new financial backer.

The streak of efficiency and energy that swept into the fashion house with the Prada and Richemont investments may have given the designer a new audience, but one thing that remained unchanged was his status as an excellent host.

“Lunch at Monsieur Alaïa’s studio was a warm, communal and unforgettable experience,” recalled Condé Nast’s Gina Sanders. “We connected over a common love of animals: dogs, horses, and his incredible cats, one of which sat on his lap during dessert!”

Harper’s Bazaar editor in chief Glenda Bailey said, “One of the greatest treats was being invited to his atelier and he would cook the most delicious food. He would speak to me in French and I would speak in English and we would completely understand each other. He was the king of curve. He broke the rules and that’s what makes him an original. He was incredibly respected because of his knowledge, love of beauty and uncompromising spirit. He’s going to be dearly missed.”

Nicoletta Santoro, creative director at large for Town & Country, said, “My first memory of Azzedine is from 1989. I had just moved to Paris with my husband and our twins. Azzedine lived around the corner from us and he would always see me at the park strolling with my twins in their pram. One day, he invited me for tea in his intimate kitchen on rue de Bellechasse. He often cautioned, ‘sois toi même,’ and over the years I became compelled by his almost obstinate dedication to originality and creative vision. Azzedine did not listen to the noise and he taught me to believe in myself.”

Stellene Volandes, editor in chief of Town & Country, said, “He was singular in his vision and his independence and in his consistent and one of a kind courage to always as he said here ‘do things your own way.’ But he was also singular in the loyalty he inspired-one only had to look at Instagram the morning the news broke for evidence-from the deep friendships he maintained in the world of fashion to the fans and clients around the world that only ever wore and only ever will wear ‘Alaïa.'” 

As much as he was driven to work, he also loved to gossip, telling funny stories and lavishing attention on people he liked. Alaïa always had a doting crowd of model fans, who would walk in his show for free and were drawn to his designs.

Stephanie Seymour was just 15 when she first modeled for him, and he created her wedding dress when she married Peter Brant in 1995. He treated Campbell like a daughter, while Veronica Webb lived with him for a period when she was 19.

“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life,” said Seymour. “He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me.  I call him Papa.  His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art.  He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest.  I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!’ His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career.  I can’t imagine life without him.  Repose en paix mon Papa.”

Having known the designer since he was working with Thierry Mugler in the Seventies, Pat Cleveland said, “He has always influenced everyone.”

“So cuddly, sweet and a nice hugger, he made me feel like the most important person in the world. The last time i saw him was in Paris at his house and we had lunch. We had fun fun playing in the mirrors and he dressed me up. We signed each other’s books and gifted them to one another. He will be in my heart forever.”

Gisele Bündchen said, “I had the immense pleasure to spend a day with Azzedine in his atelier. He was kind and so generous; he was a true gentleman and an incredible artist. The world lost a very special man but his legacy will live on forever.”

Alaïa was quoted as saying, “You have to be honest in your work. You have to stay true to yourself. That’s the best thing.” He also disliked the words “trend” and “modern.” As he put it, “Fashion is not a trend that you have to follow like sheep. When something is good, it’s good.”

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