history of fashion

For many years now,I have been buying and receiving the dresses,coats, and jackets that tell the story of the great history of fashion.It has become for me an almost institutional behavior to preserve them… Azzedine Alaïa

  • Azzedine Alaïa showing how to drape a dress designed by Vionnet, Azzedine alaïa gallery, 1990 ph. patricia Camino

  • Azzedine Alaïa showing how to drape a dress designed by Vionnet, Azzedine alaïa gallery, 1990 ph. patricia Camino

  • Azzedine Alaïa showing how to drape a dress designed by Vionnet, Azzedine alaïa gallery, 1990 ph. patricia Camino

  • Azzedine Alaïa showing how to drape a dress designed by Vionnet, Azzedine alaïa gallery, 1990 ph. patricia Camino

  • Azzedine Alaïa showing how to drape a dress designed by Vionnet, Azzedine alaïa gallery, 1990 ph. patricia Camino

  • Azzedine Alaïa showing how to drape a dress designed by Vionnet, Azzedine alaïa gallery, 1990 ph. patricia Camino

  • Azzedine Alaïa showing how to drape a dress designed by Vionnet, Azzedine alaïa gallery, 1990 ph. patricia Camino

It would be the closure of a great Fashion House that led Azzedine Alaïa to widen the spectrum of his collection to include the great masters of Couture. In 1968, when Cristóbal Balenciaga decided to close his house, Mademoiselle Renée, who had worked for many decades beside the Spanish master and who was concerned about the fate of the dresses, called Azzedine Alaïa and proposed that he come to select some of the dresses to rework them as he wished. Impressed by the maestria of Balenciaga evident in the cut of the dresses, coats, and suits before him, he decided to conserve them exactly as they were for the rest of his life. The vulnerable heritage that he saves reveals to him his vocation as a collector of fashion, in parallel to his own creative work.

“Some months before his passing, Azzedine Alaïa recounted with fondness this moment, which sparked in him a realization of the significance of the history of fashion and a lasting respect which he would continue to cultivate. From that moment onwards, he maintained a growing, soon unbridled interest in all sources of fashion’s collective memory. Because despite his means, limited at first, then more comfortable as his success grew, Alaïa quickly became a collector eager to preserve all things.”
Olivier Saillard, fashion historian, director of the Foundation

Since the end of the 1960s, he would nurture this interest in clothes with specific techniques. He became particularly passionate about clothes from the 1930s and 1950s. By the hundreds, then the thousands, Alaïa surrounded himself with dresses by Paul Poiret, Madame Grès, Madeleine Vionnet, Gabrielle Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and of course Cristóbal Balenciaga.

  • madame grès © DR

  • madame grès © DR

  • madame grès © DR

  • madame grès © DR

He also became a major collector of the work of Adrian, a couturier rarely present in French museums. He and the American couturier had a particular client in common, Greta Garbo. Alaïa’s collection, over one hundred pieces, is a faithful representation of all of the facets of the Hollywood couturier.

  • Adrian, THE COUTURE YEARS 1942-1952 ph. Andrea & VALENTINA

  • Adrian, THE COUTURE YEARS 1942-1952 ph. Andrea & VALENTINA

  • Adrian, THE COUTURE YEARS 1942-1952 ph. Andrea & VALENTINA

  • Adrian, THE COUTURE YEARS 1942-1952 ph. Andrea & VALENTINA

Azzedine Alaïa was also an altruistic collector: in 1987, at the request of Maryline Vigouroux, the wife of the Mayor at the time, he accompanied and provided his support to the city of Marseille in its project to create a museum of fashion. Honorary President of the institution Maison de Mode Méditerranée, he donated 100 Alaïa pieces to help constitute the collection of the fledgling museum, and he would guide them, being a veritable expert and connoisseur of auction sales, in their acquisitions of pieces by Mariano Fortuny, Elsa Schiaparelli, Madeleine Vionnet, etc.

Throughout his life, this compulsive collector would diligently follow auctions and sales, sometimes bidding against fashion museums from all over the world in order to obtain the finest pieces. In 2005, Alaïa takes part in a project of an exceptional auction at Drouot auction house: “La Création en liberté. Univers de Paul et Denise Poiret 1905-1928”. He in fact held in the great glass roofed hall at 18 rue de la Verrerie an exhibition of the items in the sale, comprised entirely of dresses that Paul Poiret had created especially for his wife Denise, and that their descendants had carefully preserved. Of course, Alaïa could not resist the temptation to acquire a number of the pieces.

He also took part in another auction project, held in July of 2009 at Drouot “Elsa Schiaparelli: Wardrobe from 1935 to 1950”, presenting in his gallery a selection of the finest pieces in avant-première before the auction.

“In more than one way, and more often than was expected, Alaïa came to save from perdition or oblivion, the names and garments amongst the most sought after in fashion today, and that now, thanks to him, remain here in France. Tirelessly, the couturier collected the velvet remnants of the past in search of the techniques at work, those which shape the greatest of destinies and came to determine his own.” Olivier Saillard

  • Elsa Schiaparelli, Azzedine Alaïa gallery, 2009 ph. sylvie Delpech

  • Elsa Schiaparelli, Azzedine Alaïa gallery, 2009 ph. sylvie Delpech

  • Elsa Schiaparelli, Azzedine Alaïa gallery, 2009 ph. sylvie Delpech

  • Elsa Schiaparelli, Azzedine Alaïa gallery, 2009 ph. sylvie Delpech

He also studied attentively the work of his contemporaries, and acquired, as would an astute curator of contemporary fashion, the most emblematic pieces of his era, with clothes by Jean-Paul Gaultier, Rei Kawakubo, Martin Margiela, Yojhi Yamamoto, Rick Owens, etc.

I want to build a foundation, and put my entire archive in it as well. I want to do some exhibitions eventually. It’s something for the young people to see how some of the great couturiers worked.

All of the pieces selected by Monsieur Alaïa testify to his passion as a collector and his love of fashion history. This prestigious collection of the masters of Couture composed and collected over the course of his lifetime is worthy of the greatest fashion museums of the world.
Conscious of its inestimable value and rarity, Azzedine Alaïa decided to bequeath the collection to his eponymous Foundation. This collection constitutes one of the most important departments of the Foundation’s archives, alongside the creations of Azzedine Alaïa.