LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Azzedine Alaïa: African King


The King of Cling creates fantastical footwear masterpieces, with a strong accent of Africa.

Luring and securing devotees, designer Azzedine Alaïa’s fantastical footwear has stretched its sybaritic shadow around the globe. Never one to shy away from the relative stability and height-giving powers of a platform sole or a weighty heel,
whether or not they are riding high on the general fashion wave, Alaïa’s shoes have always been conceived to fill multiple roles – seduction, empowerment, and an all-around general wow factor.

The Tunisian-born couturier, who tends to obsessively shun the spotlight and the exhaustive fashion system to focus on the actual craft of designing and making peerless clothing and accessories, creates the kind of footwear that makes women swoon and men sit up and take notice.

Alaïa launched footwear collections to accompany the earliest clothes collections of the 1980s, but the shoes waned and wilted by the end of the 1990s. After inking a partnership with Prada, that gave him access to the Italian behemoth’s impressive manufacturing resources, Alaïa was able to relaunch and expand the shoe line in 2002. In July 2007, he bought back the shares in his company that Prada held – an extremely brave and almost unheard of action – though the shoe collection has, if anything, prospered since.

This season, the vein that has been tapped for the shoe collection is as African one – and the results are as fantastical as they are spectacular and desirable. The wild fringes of raffia, tamed into an ankle cuff, are thus further manipulated and intricately woven into peep-toe platforms, accented with vegetal leather trim.

Cauri shells are a recurring feature providing a jolting decorative effect on platforms and on the slingback stilettos whose python multi-straps sneak up the leg in a seductive, Amazonian manner. Other shells – all miniature baroque swirls in pale shades, and abalone – mix with woven patent leathers in contrast colors and python to give new and highly sophisticated life to nude feet lightly graced with flat sandals.

Resin and wood are weathered and carved to look like talismanic necklaces dripping with symbolic charms except that the charm, in this instance, is to draw focus to instantly interesting feet.

The tiny dangling bells that grace high gladiator python sandals, totally transformed with higher heels, recall the cauri decoration but add a whole new metallic and aural aspect that will cause hearts to sing.

The faithful clientele that pours into multi-brand and department stores around the globe to snap up Alaïa’s offerings are sure to be joined this season by a whole new raft of the converted – it’s the same effect enacted upon passers-by of the Marc Newson-designed amphitheatrical space, an anteroom to Alaïa’s Paris store in the Marais, that provides a window – literally – into Alaïa’s exceptional world of footwear design.

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