JUN. 2023

Exhibition: Freedom. Azzedine Alaïa, Arthur Elgort

Scheduled until August 20th at the Alaïa Foundation, the most vibrant current exhibition highlights the creation of two artists who shaped the fashion of the 1980s: liberated from its codes and artifices, embodied by free, determined, independent women.

The first impression is the absolute charm of the place that is organized around a typical courtyard of the Marais district, where you just want to stop for a coffee or lunch while leafing through a book, or several, borrowed from the library behind the glass-roofed gallery. A place inhabited by the man who lived there: Azzedine Alaïa.

And then there’s the exhibition… A game of mirrors between the designer’s iconic couture pieces and Arthur Elgort’s photographs, this is an immersion into the energy of the 1980s, celebrating a collaboration between two designers who shattered the then somewhat conventional framework of the fashion world.

Intuition of an era

“Arthur Elgort did exactly the opposite of the classically posed and carefully controlled studio images on glossy paper”, says Carla Sozzani, President of the Alaïa Foundation, a lifelong friend of the designer and co-curator of the exhibition with Olivier Saillard. The photographer who shared the life of dancer Grethe Barreth Holby loved nothing more than movement. He would open the studio windows to let in natural light, remove models’ makeup and take them out into the street, into life, where he would capture their joyful spontaneity. It was all so new.
For his part, Azzedine Alaïa cut and sculpted clothes directly onto women’s bodies like second skins, in materials that freed both movement “and mindsets”, as Carla Sozzani points out. “His approach went well beyond the notion of aesthetics. He was very attached to women’s emancipation and attentive to the personality of the models who wore his clothes”, she continues. And what models! There was the very young Naomi Campbell who lights up the exhibition because she actually lived here in this house, entrusted to the designer by her mother. There was also Stephanie Seymour, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and so many others… leading figures of an era when everything was changing. “They were really crazy about Azzedine Alaïa’s fashion and left the shows with whole bags of clothes, which they wore in their private life”, recalls Carla Sozzani.

Going deeper

Don’t leave 18 Rue de la Verrerie without walking upstairs to admire some large-size photos of Azzedine Alaïa’s designs, by Thomas Demand, which prove how accurate and demanding this pure couturier truly was. Above all, this floor offers a view through a large window of the most moving room in the house: his atelier, left just as it was on the day of his death, as if he would return at any moment and to the sound of Oum Kalthoum’s voice, pick up work where he had left it.
You can then continue your journey through the incredible boutique decorated by Julian Schnabel, and allow yourself to be won over by the latest creations by the talented Pieter Mulier, who has taken up the torch for the brand and its inspiration.

“This Foundation is Azzedine Alaïa’s dream, which Olivier Saillard and I decided to fulfill. He wanted to share his incredible collecting heritage in order to pass on to future generations something he, a self-taught man, had learned and inherited from his masters – and notably Balenciaga from whom he owned over 500 couture pieces. He never forgot his modest background and wanted to offer scholarships to help train young designers. And he wanted it to be a place of culture and sharing where you feel at home, as if you were one of his friends. Just as when he was still here.” He is indeed still very much present.

Do not hesitate to contact our concierges to organize a visit during your next stay at La Réserve Paris.


This article is an excerpt from La Réserve Magazine N° 29 by Michel Reybier Hospitality, which you can consult online here.


Photo credits : Arthur Elgort