Alaia was born in Tunisia in the 1940s to wheat farming parents. A French friend of his mother’s fed Alaia’s instinctive creativity with copies of Vogue and lied about his age to get him into the local Ecole des Beaux-Arts to study sculpture. Alaia’s sister taught him to sew and he started making copies of couture dresses for neighbours.
Soon afterwards, he went to Paris to work for Christian Dior then moved to Guy Laroche and then worked for Thierry Mugler until he opened his first atelier.
He produced his first ready-to-wear collection in 1980 when a jacket of his was “discovered” by a Bergdorf Goodman buyer.
During the mid-1990s after the death of his twin sister he disappeared from the fashion business. He appeared again in 1996 when he participated in the Biennale della Moda in Florence.
In 2000, Alaia joined forces with the Prada group until 2007. Also, in 2000, a solo exhibition at the New York Guggenheim confirmed his status as a major influence that goes beyond fashion. Alaïa still designs, and is based in Paris.
Alaia refuses the marketing-driven logic of luxury conglomerates, continuing to focus on clothes. Alaia is revered for his independence and passion for discreet luxury. Catherine Lardeur, the former editor and chief of French Marie Claire in the 1980s, stated in an interview to Crowd Magazine that ” Fashion is dead. Designers nowadays do not create anything, they only make clothes so people and the press would talk about them… Alaia remains the king. He is smart enough to not only care about having people talk about him. He only holds fashion shows when he has something to show, on his own time frame. Even when Prada owned him he remained free and did what he wanted to do.”
Since 2007, Azzedine Alaïa is part of the Compagnie Financière Richemont SA- the ultimate holding Company for some of the world’s leading luxury goods companies – its Maisons – encompassing jewellery, watches, premium accessories and other luxury products. The company’s brand portfolio includes: Alfred Dunhill, Azzedine Alaia, Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Chloé, IWC, Jaeger- LeCoultre, Lancel, Lange & Söhne, Montblanc, NET-A-PORTER.COM, Officine Panerai, Peter Millar, Piaget, Purdey, Roger Dubuis, Shanghai Tang, Vacheron Constantin and Van Cleef & Arpels.