Azzedine Alaia, 82, died last Sunday. I woke up at 6 am to use the restroom and before I went back to sleep, I decided to get on instagram. It was there where I saw supermodels of presents and past posting “R.I.P” under photos of the Tunisian born designer.
I immediately, screamed “WHAT?!”. Alaia wasn’t just my favorite fashion designer but he was an innovator that didn’t give a damn what anybody had to say about him or collections.
A lot of our first encounter of Alaia was from “Clueless,” where Cher tells the robber she couldn’t get down on the ground because “This is an Alaia…a totally important designer!”. For me, it wasn’t this film but in vogue.
I remember, a magazine cover with supermodels decked out in Alaia in the 90s and remembering how I wanted the dresses they were wearing. So feminine, yet sexy!
Fast forward to my first job on luxury retail in Beverly Hills. I was finally able to touch and see the intricate detailing that goes into a piece from Alaia! It didn’t matter if it were shoes or a dress, it was worth the price tag.
While working at Saks, I became really intrigued by Alaia and it was there i learned that he basically responsible for making Naomi Campbell a supermodel when she was 16! Naomi ran into Alaia after she lost her wallet in Paris and the two have been inseparable since! Azzedine became Naomi’s “papa” and she was his “daughter”. Can you believe there were times when Naomi snuck out, Alaia would go to the club and drag her home?! When Alaia released his fragrance, he even modeled the color of the packaging in the likeness of Naomi’s inner arm. Talk about adoration.
I remember building a relationship with the Alaia reps and telling them how I wanted to knock on Azzedine’s door while I was in Paris and how bad I wanted to meet him. She replied, “You should’ve knocked! He would’ve let you in and given you a tour. That’s how humble he is.”
Monsieur, you were a true gem. Breaking barriers for women of color in fashion and teaching us to defy Fashion and social norms! There will never be another you!