Maison Alaïa opens its first London flagship
‘Azzedine Alaïa never wanted to have one interior designer and one architect as he wanted to design his world and he did not understand why one would. He liked to work with his friends – Pierre Paulin, Marc Newson, Konstantin Grcic, Shiro Kuramata, Kris Ruhs – all the people he respected and loved. We had a good time choosing the furniture pieces from his personal collection. Alaïa saw everything as being light and fresh,’ says the gallerist and retail revolutionary Carla Sozzani of the interior curation of the new Alaïa Maison on London’s Bond Street. She first met the designer – who passed away last November – in 1979.
The debut Alaïa Maison in London (there are two in Paris) covers 6,000 square feet. From the signature sandy pink flag that waves outside the door, to the Martin Szekely Opus Albs steel bookshelves positioned in the window, propped with just a two laser cut leather bags, and the Kris Ruhs aluminum wall light cascade that ripples like vertebrae down all three floors of the store, to the collection of giant donut Pelota lamps by Marc Newson for Flos – the space feels illuminated from inside out.
The building, previously the HQ for the antique jeweler, SJ Phillips, has been restored back to its handsome glory with original stuccowork, arching windows and bare bricks on show. A bold burnished metal and glass staircase, designed by Kris Ruhs, spirals up through the three floors, inviting one to ascend and explore Alaïa’s world in a way that a department store can never do justice.
Aluminum wall lights by Kris Ruhs act as vertebrae down all three floors of the store
Beyond Alaïa’s signature knit dresses, you are immediately taken aback by the breadth and depth of the display. The spring/summer collection is on show alongside grommet leather skater skirts, bustier tops, flirty lace cotton dresses and diaphanous goddess evening gowns in a palette of white, black, sand, apricot and pimento red. A couture service will also be introduced.
‘It is a mixture of the summer collection as well as his signature forever pieces, accessories, perfume (now counting three) and shoes. Alaïa always said that if a woman feels secure she is even more beautiful – that self-confidence is the beauty of his work and he really achieved that. When you look in the store the pieces could be from today, tomorrow, or yesterday,’ says Sozzani who founded the Association Azzedine Alaïa in 2007 with Alaia and his partner, the artist, Christopher Von Weyhe. His dusk light painting of Hamburg Port hangs on the ground floor above the counter till.
The foundation’s work is to preserve the legacy and Alaïa’s enormous collection of design, art and fashion. Richemont is the majority shareholder in the company and with 21,000 patterns in the archive the atelier (employing thirty people) will be able to continue Alaïa’s work for future decades and generations.
As the Mark Wilson curated exhibition ‘Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier’, opening at the Design Museum on May 10 shows, Alaïa’s work has the magical quality of timelessness, transcending trends and seasonal fads. Between Pierre Paulin’s Cathedral tables (Alaia commissioned a series in bright orange), Naoto Fukasawa’s curved Perspex benches, the laser cut corset belts and riveted chiffon and velvet couture gowns; the store is also a temple of exceptional taste.