Azzedine Alaia has gotten a lot of attention of late for his criticism of the fashion industry’s breakneck pace — he even turned down John Galliano‘s old job at Dior because he didn’t want to be a slave to a sped-up fashion cycle he says doesn’t allow for designers to be truly creative. He’s criticized Anna Wintour for not being chic, and he called Karl Lagerfeld a hack — but he gets away with it because he’s chosen to operate on a set of rules that are anathema to what the rest of the business considers industry standards — he even refuses to sell clothing to some people, which he can do because the people who can buy Alaia buy it in droves.
The designer talked about his method — and about what the fashion industry can do to slow down — with 032c, a German culture magazine. In what will certainly not be the last of such interviews in which he expounds about the need for a less structured approach to fashion, Alaia discussed the need for more creativity, what working in fashion can do to a designer’s personal life, and why everyone simply cannot be like Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld.
Creativity should be the only concern. But today there is no time for creativity; nobody has time to develop a special silhouette or a special fabric. Of course there are a few exceptions, like what Nicolas Ghesquière does at Balenciaga, or Alber Elbaz at Lanvin. But designers working for big houses like Dior or Vuitton have no time to reflect. We can’t just squeeze the young talents out like lemons and then throw them away. Four collections for women, four collections for men, another four collections to sell, and everything needs do be done within four-five months — it’s a one-way course towards emptiness. It’s inhuman.
On the life of a designer:
Tell me how these designers who work for the major houses can have lives? How can they raise children if they are never home? They are gone for one, sometimes two months, while their children have to go to school. They have husbands, wives, but they can’t live their lives. People need time for that, and talents need time to create something. It’s stupid to ask someone to create eight collections per season. Look what has happened to John Galliano or this poor young guy from Balmain, who is now in a psychiatric hospital. After five or six seasons, he was already broken. Or last year, McQueen — dead. And there are many more that are just so tired. There is a pressure that is mad.
On the next generation of great designers:
New talents, like Haider Ackermann, really have to watch out for themselves. The decision for someone like him is hard — to be approached by a big maison and then say no. But signing a big contract is like signing a contract with the devil today. He can’t do his collection and do, for example, collections for Dior. Of course there are exceptions, like Karl Lagerfeld — he can do Fendi, he can do Chanel, he can do photos, film, Diet Coke — but that’s something very different. There is just one Karl Lagerfeld — it’s a whole other system.
Read the rest of Alaia’s interview (in which he explains why his last collection was nothing but knitwear) here.