French-Tunisian designer Azzedine Alaïa, whose timeless gowns won an army of devotees around the world, has died at the age of 82, France’s fashion federation confirmed on Saturday morning. Mr. Alaïa, who rose to fame in the 1980s, refused to march to the beat of international fashion weeks, releasing his collections in his own time with scant concern for publicity.
Born to a farming family in Tunisia in 1940, Alaïastudied sculpture at the capital’s fine arts school before working at a modest neighbourhood dressmaker’s shop. He moved to Paris in the late 1950’s, working briefly for Dior and Guy Laroche before eventually going solo, and earning the title of “one of the greatest and most uncompromising designers of the 20th and 21st century,” per the New York Times.
Alaïa – who was notoriously discreet and invariably clad in a black high-necked Chinese suit -signed a development deal with Prada in 2000, but quit seven years later to work with Swiss luxury group Richemont. His catwalk shows were low-key as well, earning him a loyal clientele, including an array of world-famous actresses, supermodels and fashion elites, such as former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama.
In addition to haute couture, Alaïa also produced ready-to-wear collections, while ignoring pressure to systematically refresh his ideas every season. Despite global success, Alaïa did not change his working habits; he continued throughout his career to work oftentimes by himself and deep into the night.