Paris haute couture week on Sunday returned with a joyous and buzzy atmosphere with the first live show in a year and a half, the much-anticipated debut collection of Maison Alaia under new creative director, Mr Pieter Mulier.
Rue de Moussy, a street in the Marais, was lit like a Hollywood film, the location where Azzedine Alaia once lived and worked. The start of a new chapter for the house was literally being written at its front door: four years after the death of its founder and twenty years after the house’s last haute couture show.
Azzedine Alaia’s legion of ardent fans have not been left unclothed in the meantime, buying re-editions released by the Maison from his signature archetypes, the impeccably tailored tulle, the flattering knife-pleat knitted dresses, the iconic studded leather sandals and bags. In a career spanning decades, Alaia’s signature tropes remain as relevant and covetable today as they were in the eighties and nineties. Parent company Richemont, the Swiss luxury group, is banking on the brand flourishing once again.
So what of Mr Mulier’s debut?
It was considered, respectful and modern. There was no revolution that attempted to steer its founder’s heritage off course, what often happens when a newly appointed designer is expected to transform a house and quickly implement new codes needed to become commercial hits. Mr Alaia was one of the last great independent couturiers, and Mr Mulier saluted him, gently navigating the ship to a new frontier even if the route was not unfamiliar territory.
There were the sleek hoods, deconstructed denim, the corset belt and laser-cut knits – but this time with silver baubles instead of grommets. There was the corolla skirt, and plenty of leather, soft and supremely cut for an elongated silhouette. The sculptural layering of t-shirts and bodysuit dresses were an homage to French artist César, who’s work stood out as an obvious choice to mark Mulier’s first show.
At Alaia, the legions of fans came for the master tailor for whom the female body was a sensual and sensory sculpture, where the clothes become the skin and the skin becomes the clothes.
Mr Mulier had the audience fully aboard his ship, happy to sail in his new direction.