Some might know his name from a quick reference by Alicia Silverstone about her party dress in the 1995 film Clueless. Others will recognize his extensive celebrity clientele.
Tunisian fashion designer Azzedine Alaïa, whose form-fitting designs earned him the title “king of cling,” has died at the age of 77, according to media reports.
Alaïa was renowned for his uncompromising integrity in an exclusive business, refusing to pander to media coverage or reveal collections at fashion weeks. He released lines on his own time and in his own showroom.
Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Salma Hayek and Rihanna are just some of the high-profile women who have worn his designs.
While his price point remained accessible primarily to elite and celebrity buyers, he was widely respected for honouring the female form and maintaining an artist’s touch in his work.
He was also known for championing diversity in an otherwise confining industry, which was highlighted Saturday by well-known Bollywood star Sonam Kapoor and Selma filmmaker Ava DuVernay.
“A designer who embraced women of colour as models and muses when others didn’t,” DuVernay posted on Twitter Saturday.
R.I.P. Azzedine Alaïa. I am deeply saddened to hear that one of the most talented and iconic designers who shaped contemporary fashion has left us. Thank you for always empowering women and embracing diversity!
Hearing of the passing of Azzedine Alaia. A designer who embraced women of color as models and muses when others didn’t. May he rest in power and peace. pic.twitter.com/TzdiJUfBLo
Alaïa was born in Tunis, Tunisia, in 1940 to farming parents. He eventually moved to Paris to pursue dressmaking, working under a number of famous designers in his youth, including Christian Dior.
The emerging designer rose to fame in the 1980s, gaining a following from supermodels Naomi Campbell and Stephanie Seymour as well as popular musicians such as Madonna and Janet Jackson. As time went on, he accumulated a long list of devotees, many of whom wore his intricate dresses at awards shows, galas and A-list events.