i went to paris with my mother to make my first serious purchase in the world of design. Alaïa didn’t have a store then, and a Parisian friend of my mother who worked at French Elle during the early ’80s helped me track him down. I’d become aware of Alaïa’s existence as his designs were being worn by a few women privately. I’d seen them being worn and I wanted to know the who, the where and the how of making a dream become a reality for me. The piece I bought was a black knit dress with a beautiful delicate open pointelle in wide bands throughout, three-quarter sleeves and a deep scooped-out back. I’d saved my first few months of salary, raided my bank account and borrowed from my mother. The sense of liberation that Alaïa gave me at that time, and the influence he has always had on my life, has not ended since.
Back then Alaïa was a little secret; no one really knew who he was outside of a very few select French publications and fashion journalists. The world of fashion was very different at that time, without the wide audience of today or, indeed, the ability to access what was new. The general public didn’t know fashion shows existed and we never saw anything ahead of time. The first time you would see anything would be in a magazine, and then it hit the shop floor. The only way you ever found out anything was if you knew people in the industry or the haute couture customers who had everything on their radar.
Today, well over 25 years later, I’m blessed that not only do I continue to wear Alaïa, I’ve also built up a large collection of Alaïa in my wardrobe (and I don’t have to raid my savings bank and borrow from my mother to get them). Seeing the collections in the showroom and meeting Alaïa in his atelier is more than I could ever have hoped for. Now Alaïa also comprises the majority of my shoes. What I love about it is that no matter where or what the occasion, or simply on an ordinary day, Alaïa is always appropriate. As one of the best-selling brands at Lane Crawford, Alaïa is there and right for any women who says to me, “I’m not sure what to wear,” or “Will I be under- or overdressed?” or whatever their concern is. There’s no designer in the world that doesn’t hold Alaïa in huge esteem.
Once a woman has had Alaïa enter her wardrobe she will forever go back to him. He is a true master.
The exhibition Alaïa is at the Palais Galliera in Paris from September 28 until January 26, 2014