In Memoriam – The Great Tunisian Born Fashion Designer Azzedine Alaia Passed Away

Tunisian born fashion and shoe designer, Azzedine Alaia, died in Paris at the age of 77, the French Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion said on Saturday November 18, 2017.

Azzedine Alaia was born on 26 February 1940 in Tunis in North Africa to farming parents. He developed a passion for fashion thanks to his twin sister Hafidha. As a teenager, he lied about his age to get into the École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis. After his graduation in 1950, he relocated to Paris, where he rented a room in a countess’ home in exchange for small jobs. He learned to sew at Guy Laroche and worked at Christian Dior as a tailleur until he opened his own house in the late 1970s.

Azzedine was, together with Giorgio Armani, the most influential fashion designer of the 1980s. “The King of Cling” was his epithet, as he was known by his use of fabric to make clothes that hugged the body. Azzedine, who always wore black, refused to march to the beat of global fashion weeks, releasing his collections in his own time with little concern for publicity.

As for success, I don’t care for it. It is a fragile thing – Azzedine Alaia

His house’s website portrayed him as “the little man in eternal Chinese pajamas” who “built a legend, that of a rebel designer who worked against the system and its trends.” Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham, Salma Hayek and Rihanna are just some of the women who have worn his designs.

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Rihanna in an Azzedine Alaia at the Grammy 2013 awards

The supermodel Naomi Campbell, who had a close relationship with Alaia for many years and called him “papa” has credited the designer with helping launch her career and taking care of her like a father when she met him in Paris at age 16.

Naomi Campbell on the catwalk – Azzedine Alaia show, Fall Winter 2017, Paris – 05 Jul 2017

As a rare Tunisian with international name recognition, Alaia’s death caused collective grief in his native Tunisia on Saturday, with tributes coming from the culture worlds and the government. The Tunisian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Alaia had expressed a wish to be buried in Tunisia.

Some of his designs: