Alaïa Spring 2023 Ready-to-Wear Collection

Pieter Mulier invited people into the unfinished space that will be the new Alaia store in Faubourg Saint-Honoré – an architectural work in progress that he saw as the perfect reflection for the feeling of his third collection: “something raw and something elegant at the same time.”

It crackled with energy; the models collectively channel a modern take on the Glamazonian power of female physicality that originated in this house in the 80s. As if to emphasize that it’s about dressing the body he’s talking about, Mulier started with layered bodysuits in almost transparent stretch silk, the first with a single nipple “piercing” in the form of a trompe-l’œil pearl.

What followed unfolded in all manner of sophisticated twists of draping, wrapping, ruching and knotting, interspersed with the kind of anatomical knitted bodysuits that are an Alaia marvel. Eyes fell on the shoes: long-haired boots cinched with huge metal bracelets on cubed lucite heels; black lacquer stiletto heels in the shape of a naked woman’s legs. Mulier has an instinct for the extreme accessory that resonates with today’s thirst for the surreal. photos of Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell wearing them, so we pulled them from the archives and redid them.

Mulier said he never had the chance to explore draping at his old jobs (at Christian Dior and Calvin Klein), but if it was ever an ambition, he’s come to the right place. Alaia is made up of people who have a spectacular and nuanced repertoire of technical skills that allow Mulier to model ideas in 3D; to craft dresses that rely on asymmetry, gathering at the hips, suspension and the North African influences that Alaia has used as a source of innovation.

Mulier said he had been “obsessed with a show from 1984, which not many people know about, because Azzedine basically draped viscose, and also draped leather”. In imitating the latter – leather and shearling – he left the edges raw and invented a version of perforated black leather – almost like sequins – to make a rough-edged t-shirt and a little skirt that Tina Turner would have worked at most.

The trick was to make the complex almost spontaneous. There were wrap dresses made from single lengths of boiled cashmere. “The idea was that it’s like a scarf. It’s part of traditional Tunisian clothing – they make it out of cotton – and Azzedine was obsessed with it,” Mulier said. “So I said, let’s make curtains, as simple as possible.” But he added, nodding to his team in white coats. “Very simple, but it’s not that simple.”

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