Azzedine Alaïa has never obeyed the fashion calendar and shows only when he — and his clothes — are good and ready. In fact, in recent years, the designer, who is now in his 70s, has probably had as many runway presentations as museum exhibitions, including the one that opens this weekend at the Groninger Museum in the Netherlands. “Azzedine Alaïa in the 21st Century” focuses solely on his output from roughly the past decade, and yet there is more substance there than many designers could ever hope to achieve in a lifetime, including the fierce tailcoat above and a toothsome evening dress with a zipper that spirals suggestively around the body from the neck to the floor. Always the perfectionist in the pursuit of beauty (he’s often referred to as a “sculptor of women’s bodies”), Alaïa apparently recut or totally remade many of the pieces in the show to the exact proportions of the mannequins. In an open love letter to the designer, Mark Wilson, who curated the exhibition, writes, “I’m sure that certain people may wonder why we are doing this one more time?” referring to a massive Alaïa exhibition at the Groninger Museum back in in 1997-98. Wilson promptly answers his own question: “Because you are the last great couturier working today.”
“Azzedine Alaïa in the 21st Century” is at the Groninger Museum from Dec. 11, 2011, to May 6, 2012. Go to groningermuseum.nl.