Four years after the passing of its founder, Maison Alaïa is back.
The French couture house was among the many fashion brands that kicked off Paris Couture Week yesterday, and like Dior, it did so with a physical runway show. The show was made even more special by the fact that it marked the debut of Pieter Mulier, who was appointed as creative director of Maison Alaïa earlier this year.
Mulier, who was previously Raf Simons’ close collaborator at Jil Sander, Dior and Calvin Klein, is now tasked to carry on the enormous legacy left by the brand’s founder, Azzedine Alaïa. The late Tunisian couturier, who passed away in 2017, was best known as “The King of Cling” for his sensual evening dresses, knits and leather pieces that emphasised the feminine figure.
By the looks of his first haute couture collection for Spring/Summer 2022, Mulier will not be straying too far from Alaïa’s design codes. “It’s for my generation to explain to the younger generation what Alaïa is, and bring back sensuality, tailoring, and the ease it had in the ’80s,” explained the Belgian designer.
Below, we tell you all you need to know about his spectacular debut in Paris.
The venue had historic significance
The show was held on the Rue de Moussy, a street in Marais where Alaïa had lived and worked in for forty years. It’s also where the couturier had truly built Maison Alaïa, bringing together his design workshop, boutique and the showroom where he would present his creations to his private clients. For his debut, Mulier staged the show along the street right outside the front door, which was charmingly lit up by street lamps.
There were no frills, no fancy backdrops, nothing that was designed to excite on Instagram — except for the clothes. “In the ’80s, a lot of women bought Alaïa, especially in America. And then it became a little bit more gallery, more museum, more distant,” explained Mulier. “That’s why we did the show in the street: to literally bring it to the street so you can see these pure lines, which are, in the end, simple sweaters and leggings that everybody wears.”
Famous figures and fashion icons sat on the front row
Among the many people in attendance at Mulier’s debut was his longtime creative collaborator Raf Simons, who is now co-creative director at Prada. Simons had hired Mulier as an intern for his eponymous label in 2002, and the pair would continue to work together until Simons’ short-lived stint at Calvin Klein. Simons was notably emotional during the show, “tearing up with pride” as the models came down the runway. Also in attendance were Italian designer Pierpaolo Piccioli, who will present his couture collection for Valentino next week, as well as celebrities Owen Wilson and Monica Bellucci.
The collection was dedicated to Alaïa
In the accompanying show notes, Mulier had penned a heartfelt thank you letter to the late couturier whose fashion brand he now helms. “Dear Azzedine, this collection is intended as a tribute to thank you,” he wrote. Mulier goes on to note the significance of holding the show on 4 July — “four years after your final presentation” — and share his admiration for Alaïa’s “peerless adulation of the feminine figure” and the “combination of precision, modernity and poetry” in his designs. He ends off humbly with the hope that he will live up to his new role at Maison Alaïa.
The collection drew on Alaia’s early signatures
Instead of turning to the intimidating archives at Maison Alaïa, Mulier relied on his memory, books on the late couturier’s work, as well as his friends who were loyal customers of the brand to inspire his debut collection. The result was a collection that focused heavily on the silhouette, as was true of Alaïa’s designs in the ’80s. The pieces, modelled by Vittoria Ceretti, Mica Argañaraz and more, ranged from body-con knits and sculpted leather gowns to waist-cinching, laser-cut belts and cowl-like hoods. And, true to Alaïa’s design ethos, the collection emphasised on well-crafted clothes, not on It-bags or marketable sneakers or sportswear, all of which Mulier left behind after his time at Calvin Klein.
“I wanted the first collection to be a white platform of the codes that are important for Alaïa, to explain it to the new generation, who doesn’t know it, unfortunately,” said the designer. “I don’t think this is a house for social media… It’s made for real life.”
Header photo credit: Maison Alaïa