PARIS — Controversial designer Azzedine Alaia showed his fall collection almost two months after the last major fall fashion show ended here and at a time when all the American buyers had gone home. This meant that anyone who cared to see Alaia's latest looks had to fly back to Paris for that single event.
Charles Gallay, who owns the Beverly Hills Alaia shop, made the trip back. Then he waited 1 3/4 hours before the first model walked down the runway.
When it was over, Gallay said: "His secret is his ability to master his own style. Whatever he does, it's the hand of Alaia." It was a cryptic comment to those who don't know the story of the small, reclusive designer who dares to be different in almost everything he does.
Alaia-isms abound through the collection: The stretch-knit dresses, bike shorts and high-waisted leggings all follow every sinuous curve of the female form. The suits and coatdresses that opened the collection, however, hint at a new conservatism.
The best looks of this group are above-the-knee coatdresses in lightweight gray flannel, either wrapped and belted or shirred and laced through the midriff. These were shown with black tights and simple black suede pumps.
Suit standouts included hip-hugging jackets, some with Napoleonic lapels and others with trench coat-style flaps. These were paired with ankle-length, sunburst-pleated skirts or short skirts with pleats at center-front.
In a fresh young mood, the pleated knit skater's skirts twirled above abbreviated shorts and were topped with big-sleeve turtleneck sweaters.
Less successful were the skinny, knit jumper dresses that were cut out under the bosom. These were shown with sweaters, as were the ankle-length, full-skirted cotton velvets for evening, which had everyone wondering if they were supposed to be coats or dresses.
Unique in the collection, and a real showstopper, was the covered-up, completely see-through, long black chiffon dress with bits of lace strategically placed at front and back.
Alaia fans, among whom are some of the most beautiful women in the world, will doubtless be pleased with the almost-classical approach their guru has taken in many of his designs.