The Dresses in the New Alaïa Exhibit Would Have Been Perfect for the Met Gala

While New York’s “Heavenly Bodies” were preparing for their Met Gala apotheosis, some equally transformative action was taking place in London. “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” the ultimate fashion exhibition, was being installed at the Design Museum in Kensington, England.

The show opened to the public today, but yesterday, FN caught up with Carla Sozzani at an exclusive preview. The founder of 10 Corso Como and Galleria Carla Sozzani was Alaïa’s longtime friend. who collaborated on the show with co-curator Mark Wilson.

Azzedine Alaia, donatella versace
Azzedine Alaïa with one this year’s Met Gala co-chairs, Donatella Versace, in 1999.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

She didn’t pay too much attention to the gala guests, for good reason — she was otherwise occupied with some equally sublime creations — but what would she have worn from the exhibition? “My younger self would have gone in this direction,” she said, gesturing toward an elaborate take on the crinoline in apposite cardinal red. However, with the designer’s entire oeuvre at her disposal, she would go off-piste. “I would actually have worn a beautiful shirt from the ’80s — the one with the crosses on it.”

The show is particularly special, she said, as the idea had its genesis a half year ago before Alaïa passed away. “He didn’t want to do a retrospective but a ‘conversation between friends,'” she said. “He wanted to collaborate with his friends in an unusual way. So the show was conceived by him, and we continued it in the same way.”

Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier exhibition
Haute couture dresses on display at the “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier” exhibition in London.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

By friends, he meant artists he worked with and whose work he collected, and the 60 rare garments in the show are displayed against installations created by Kris Ruhs, Marc Newson and Christophe von Weyhe. Paintings by the latter, Alaïa’s life partner, feature beautiful watercolor versions of the gowns they represent. “I’m sure Azzedine is happy,” she said, “as he was the love of his life.”

From jewel-colored mermaid dresses to the Naomi Campbell-endorsed chainmail pieces from his final couture collection, the breadth and diversity of the show are as compelling as the dresses themselves. Sure, Alaïa was best known for his monochrome palette, but as the show attests, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Alaia chainmail dress, Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier exhibition
Alaïa chainmail dress.
CREDIT: Rex Shutterstock

Even for Sozzani, there were still surprises. “It’s very strange, she said, “because when I was taking pictures of the clothes for my Instagram, sometimes I’d look at the details like I’d never seen them before.” She pointed out a Marie Antoinette-inspired gown from 1988 that was rubber-printed onto gossamer.

“There is also a dress in pink leather which I have in black. I never remembered I had it, but I thought how sexy I must have looked at the time and wondered how I could have worn it,” she laughed.

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