At the Azzedine Alaïa Foundation, the exhibition Azzedine Alaïa, Arthur Elgort. Freely – launched during the spring-summer 2023 Parisian haute couture week – compares timeless photographs and more confidential black and white shots of Arthur Elgort against the most iconic dresses by Azzedine Alaïa worn in these photos . .
Arthur Elgort wants to become a painter, Azzedine Alaïa, a sculptor
Arthur Elgort, born in New York, aspired to become a painter and enrolled in Hunter College in his city. Azzedine Alaïa, born in Tunis, bets everything on sculpture, the techniques of which he learns at the School of Fine Arts in Tunis. The first does not come true in the discipline adopted, while the second refuses to become a secondary sculptor.
We are in the mid-1950s. While his sewing work allows him to finance his studies, the clothes that Azzedine Alaïa makes make him a budding couturier, who dreams of Paris. A similar story characterizes the beginnings of Arthur Elgort: in the 1960s, at a camera seller, he bought his first Polaroid and discovered all its uses. The future, he is sure, will be written through the lens, the darkroom and the silver paper. He is a photographer.
As Azzedine Alaia prepares to work for fashion houses, fate leads him to become a designer in the bedroom: with Simone Zehrfuss, Louise de Vilmorin, the Countess of Blégiers, Arletty. For them, he makes made-to-measure clothes. With them, he learned the body academy and perfected his technique until Thierry Mugler at the end of the 1970s persuaded him to become a designer himself.
Arthur Elgort trades in his Polaroid for a Nikon and develops a passion for all types of cameras, recent and old, whose techniques, singularities and different renderings he appreciates. Vogue’s director of publications, Alexander Liberman, saw her pictures and introduced her to the editors of his magazine. Arthur Elgort will work with Polly Allen Mellen and Grace Coddington. In one year he is famous.
Their paths cross in Paris
In full ascent, the two creators meet. They will share series for magazines: they recognize each other, for example, in the absence of decorations which, superfluous, would come to disturb the photographic vision of one, the clothes of the other.
When visiting the exhibition, if this absence of decoration is not striking at first glance, looking at the photos more carefully, we see that it allows, on the contrary, to highlight even more the side snapshot of mannequin breaks. A spontaneity that seems to desacralize clothes to make them more accessible to everyone. Azzedine Alaïa recognizes herself in the novelty of her images and their rigor.
The exhibition curators Carla Sozzani and Olivier Saillard have chosen to put the garment worn in the photograph face to face, which allows you to rediscover it and appreciate its refined cut and, sometimes, even discover its original color.
Finally, what a pleasure to see again, here, the models and models of the time like Naomi Campbell, Christy Turlington, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Stephanie Seymour. .
The Association continues the work of Azzedine Alaïa
It was at 18, rue de la Verrerie, where the exhibition took place, that this atypical fashion figure worked and lived. It was in this place that the couturier presented his shows according to his own schedule, away from the frenzy of Fashion Weeks and without spectacular staging.
This son of farmers, born in Tunisia, worked for a neighborhood seamstress to finance his studies at the Beaux-Arts before trying his luck in Paris at the end of the 1950s. He became known in the 1980s in inventing the bodysuit, the tight black underpants, the zipped skirt in the back… models which contributed to define the sexy and conquering feminine silhouette of the time.
In 2007, he decided to protect his work and his art collection by founding the Azzedine Alaïa Association, together with his life partner the painter Christoph von Weyhe and his friend the publisher Carla Sozzani so that this Association would become the Azzedine Foundation. Alaia. It houses the treasures of the house and of its creator who died in November 2017 at the age of 82 and exhibits his work and works of art from his personal collection, in Paris, and in Sidi Bou Saïd, the city he loved so much. . This collector of works from the fields of art, fashion, design, furniture and photography, also liked to read works devoted to these universes and the artists who inspired him. In memory of this passion, his Association opened a bookstore in late 2018 in the inner courtyard of the house where he lived and worked.
Exposure Azzedine Alaïa, Arthur Elgort. Freely, until August 20, 2023. Azzedine Alaïa Foundation. 18, rue de Verrerie. 75004 Paris. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.