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Azzedine Alaïa obituary

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Fashion designer with a gift for personal couture whose clients included Grace Jones, Madonna and Naomi Campbell

Azzedine Alaïa was couture’s rebellious outsider even as he became one of its institutions over 60 years of creativity. He was self-taught, originally from outside Europe, a hands-on craftsman uninterested in fame, wealth and, especially, branding. In a business in which casual cruelty is the norm, he was kind; he helped newcomers, kept open house to a diverse, elective family at his Paris workshop, and ran a salon in the old French sense, as a meeting place for culture and cultures.

Alaïa, who has died aged 82 (although he often gave his date of birth as 1940, which would have made him five years younger), created clothes to match that profile: classical goddess-wear, body-fitting yet flattering, dramatic but not theatrical. His clingy 1980s dresses looked better in, and on, the flesh than in photographs. Anyone who handled his work sympathised with Alicia Silverstone’s spoilt little madam in the film Clueless, wailing at an armed mugger “You don’t understand, this is an Alaïa” as she refuses to fall to the dirty ground. Though Alaïa’s garments were so soundly constructed that the outfit’s feathers would hardly have been ruffled anyway.

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