Azzedine Alaia at the Design Museum review: The Couturier is a great homage to talented craftsman, but the women that inspired him are curiously absent

Melissa York
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Alaia's designs at the Design Museum (Source: Mark Blower )
Azzedine Alaia: The Couturier

Anyone who’s seen my browsing history will know that I can stare at pretty dresses for a long time. But there’s something about this retrospective of late Tunisian-born designer Azzedine Alaia that makes for uncomfortable viewing.

Known for hand-making skin-tight, floor length gowns for the likes of Rihanna, Grace Jones and Naomi Campbell, there’s certainly a timeless, almost ethereal quality to these pieces. Alaia managed to make fashion his business without becoming a slave to it. He claims instead to be celebrating the eternal beauty of the female form.

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Yet these dresses have been refitted to models that are the antithesis of that, intimidating, six foot five titans with silhouettes of extreme proportions. There was not a single woman in the room, admiring this haute couture, who could realistically fit into any of it.

Rather than surround these pieces with pictures of the women who had lent their bodies to celebrate his work, there are close up shots of fabric swatches and geometric glass screens designed by Alaia’s artist friends.

While The Couturier is an impressive showcase of one man’s craftsmanship and talent, the women who inspired his work feel curiously absent from it.

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