Designer Azzedine Alaia, whose timeless dresses won an army of devotees around the world, died at the age of 77, the French fashion federation said on Saturday.
Alaia, who was Franco-Tunisian, rose to fame in the 1980s, refused to march to the pace of international fashion weeks, releasing her collections in her own time with little concern for publicity.
“We have lost a very talented designer, it is very sad news,” said designer Pierre Cardin.
There was a torrent of tributes from lovers of fashion online, with the designer Inès de la Fressange tweeting: “Small in stature but huge in the world Adieu Azzedine Alaia.
“Alaia was born in 1940 in a family of farmers in Tunisia and studied sculpture at the capital’s fine arts school before working in a modest dressmaking shop, moved to Paris in the late 1950s, worked briefly for Dior. and Guy Laroche before finally going solo, earning a reputation for sexy designs celebrating the feminine form.
“I like women,” he said in an interview in 2013. “I never think about doing new things, about being creative, but about making clothes that make a woman beautiful.”
He joked at the time: “It’s better to make it clear while I’m alive, I will not give a damn when he’s dead.”
Alaia himself was discreet and invariably wore a black Chinese suit with a high collar.
His runway shows at his store in the elegant Marais district of Paris were also discreet, and he earned a loyal clientele of fashionistas who wanted luxury without showing off.
Former US first lady Michelle Obama was among her haute couture admirers, but Alaia also produced ready-to-use collections, while ignoring the pressure to update her ideas systematically each season.
He signed a development agreement with Prada in 2000, but resigned seven years later to work with Swiss luxury group Richemont.
Perhaps due to his training as a sculptor, Alaia worked on his designs since his conception in 3D, he rarely visualized them first with pencil and paper. Global success did not change his work habits and he continued throughout his career to work late into the night, often on the soundtrack of old movies.
“With him, everything was at its height: haute couture, art, the demand he put on people,” said François-Henri Pinault, executive director of the Kering luxury group.
His last show, in July, was inaugurated by supermodel Naomi Campbell, one of his proteges, who affectionately knew him as “Dad”.