Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Une Autre Pensée Sur la Mode

Image courtesy of: Association Azzedine Alaïa
(Illustration by Thierry Perez)

With TATI I learned many things, another way to look at fashion Azzedine Alaïa

Image courtesy of: Vogue Paris
(Illustration by Thierry Perez)

Decades before it became prevalent (or even fashionable) for internationally-renowned couturiers (or celebrities) and mega-brands to partner with fast-fashion retailers such as H&M, Uniqlo, Puma or Adidas on limited-edition capsule collections, Azzedine Alaïa, the Tunisian-born and Paris-based couturier, presented a seminal collection for Spring-Summer 1991, based primarily on his collaboration with the Paris discount retailer TATI and its trademark pink-on-white gingham check pattern for decades, a magnet for bargain shoppers. 

But how did this collaboration (now known as The TATI Collection)—a prototype believed to have been the first of its kind and which has since become a common marketing tool—come about between Alaïa and the TATI department store (founded in post-war Paris, in 1948, with its enduring slogan, “TATI, le plus bas prix”)? And why would a world-acclaimed designer of Alaïa's calibre associate his name with a mass-market, low-budget clothing retail franchise? For one thing, Julian Schnabel, the artist and very close friend of Alaïa's, was the first to use the TATI canvas to paint on (“It happened,” Alaïa has said, “thanks to my friend Julian Schnabel, he wanted to make paintings with the vichy check fabric that was in fact the signature emblem of TATI”) and, early on in their friendship, Schnabel suggested to Alaïa that they ought to swap works: Alaïa would exchange dresses for Schnabel's works of art—a bartering of works that inspired both designer and artist alike. (When his first wife, Jacqueline Beaurang, opened an Alaïa boutique in New York's SoHo district, at 131 Mercer Street, in 1988, Schnabel had designed the interior of as well as the fixtures for the store; following their divorce and its closure in 1992, however, Schnabel retrieved the fixtures and are currently to be found in the Alaïa boutique in Paris.)
(Quote: Association Azzedine Alaïa, Press Release, Another Way To Look At Fashion: The TATI Collection)

The Kiss (TATI) by Julian Schnabel ~ 1989
Image courtesy of: CR Fashion Book

I thought the pattern was particularly recognizable as something Parisian and it was from certain popular neighborhoods where street life was alive and buoyant” ~ Julian Schnabel

Matra Nudem (TATI) by Julian Schnabel ~ 1989
Image courtesy of: Phillips

For another, the TATI gingham print (and its large blue logo) is ubiquitous, seen on its shopping bags in the hands of local Parisian bargain shoppers as well as travelers in and out of Paris. On his frequent trips to Tunisia, for instance, Alaïa would often “see travelers at Paris’ Orly airport with huge TATI bags, full to the brim. I wanted to design something of good quality for this clientele, who until now could not afford my clothes.” (Quote: Association Azzedine Alaïa, Press Release, Another Way To Look At Fashion: The TATI Collection) Realizing that the print and canvas would just as easily lend themselves to textiles and apparel, Alaïa took the initiative of contacting TATI with a proposition for a collaboration; TATI accepted, with the proviso that he design pieces exclusively for the company. It was at this point that, as (Paris) Vogue contributor Claire Beghin points out, that “luxury high fashion and high street collaborations were born. Its success was a pillar stone in the democratization of fashion.” (Quote: Beghin, C., Vogue Paris, July 8, 2019)

Image courtesy of: Pikdo
(Illustration by Thierry Perez)

What excited me was to attach my name, and the world of haute couture, with this brand that represented bargain clothing and bargain prices.” ~ Azzedine Alaïa

Both images above are courtesy of: Vogue Paris
(Illustrations by Thierry Perez)

The outcome of the TATI collaboration was Alaïa's Spring-Summer 1991 collection, with the TATI gingham—which made up at least half of the collection and which came in both reduced as well as magnified sizes—being the pivotal theme. Alaïa freely utilized and applied the TATI gingham (aside from its characteristic pink-and-white pattern, Alaïa introduced variations in black, navy-blue as well as red-on-white versions of the print) to assorted and all-inclusive separates: T-shirts, skirts (both long and short), slacks and shorts, long and short jackets, coats, bra-tops, dresses, bodysuits, and all of which were accessorized with matching gloves, taxi driver caps, belts, bags, espadrilles and sunglasses. (Incidentally, during his conversations and negotiations with TATI for the use of its gingham, Alaïa discovered that the founder of TATI—Jules Ouaki, a Sephardic jeweler from the La Goulette district of Tunis—was, like himself, Tunisian.)

Image courtesy of: Rich'Art
(Illustrations by Thierry Perez)

Nor did Alaïa confine the TATI gingham solely to cotton canvas/denim fabrics but, having been the peerless master of knits on which he had built his distinguished career (and his reputation as the ‘King of Cling), had it woven into knits, as well, to allow for stretch—and to achieve the famed Alaïa cling. (Additionally, Alaïa designed canvas shopping tote bags specifically for TATI with Alaïa Pour TATI’ printed on their front panels; these bags, along with the espadrilles and T-shirts, were made available and sold at TATI stores.) Moreover, it ought to be noted that Alaïa donated the income from the sales to a humanitarian cause.

 Image courtesy of: Vogue Paris
(Illustration by Thierry Perez)

There have been, in the past few years, several retrospective exhibitions devoted to the late Alaïa's work and legacy (which have always concentrated on the mastering of his craft rather than focusing on passing fads or fashion trends), who passed away unexpectedly in November of 2017, both during the couturier's lifetime and since his demise. Some have been staged in Paris, at Galerie Azzedine Alaïa, while others were presented in other cities, such as London, Dusseldorf, Milan, Rome, New York, Groningen, Seoul and elsewhere.

Since its inception, creation and presentation nearly thirty yeas ago, The TATI Collection’ has grown in stature: it has not only become iconic but highly collectible; so much so, that an exhibition devoted entirely to it was recently on show. Curated by long-time Alaïa-associate/collaborator and fashion historian Olivier Saillard and held at Galerie Azzedine Alaïa (18 rue de la Verrerie, 75004, Paris), Another Way to Look at Fashion: The TATI Collection was recently on display from July 1st, 2019, till its closing on January 5th, 2020. (There are currently two exhibitions on view; these include: Azzedine Alaïa Collector: Alaïa and Balenciaga Sculptors of Shape, January 20th to June 28th, 2020, at Galerie Azzedine Alaïa and, in what is termed to be Alaïa's first posthumous U.S. exhibition, Alaïa-Adrain: Masters of Cut, presently in Atlanta at the SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion, from February 11th till September 13th, 2020, likewise curated by Olivier Saillard. Alaïa, who collected art as well as apparel and costumes of past eras, was also a collector of the works of Gilbert Adrian, the Hollywood costumer for MGM, alongside those of the great couturiers Madame Vionnet, Madame Grès, Charles James, and Balenciaga.)

(Sources: Collins, A. F., All Eyes on Alaïa, Vanity Fair, August 23, 2012; Association Azzedine Alaïa, Press Release, Another Way To Look At Fashion: The TATI Collection; Wynne, A., Exhibition  on Azzedine Alaïa's Tait Collection Debuts in Paris, WWD, June 30, 2019; Beghin, C., Vogue Paris, July 8, 2019; Robinson, R., CR Fashion Book, July 5, 2019)

Christy Turlington photographed by Patrick Demarchelier ~ 1991
Image courtesy of: Maison Alaïa

Naomi Campbell photographed in Los Angeles by Ellen von Unwerth ~ 1991
Both images above are courtesy of: Vogue Paris

Yasmeen Ghauri photographed by Patrick Demarchelier for Vogue (Italia) ~ 1991
Image courtesy of: Pinterest

There is a message in this collaboration. He could make anything he wanted out of any textile. If he had no fabric, he could take the tablecloth and make a beautiful dress” 
~ Olivier Saillard

Image courtesy of: Madame Figaro
(Photo by Kenzo Tribouillard)

Image courtesy of: Paris Diary by Laure


The above left image is courtesy of:  Paris Par Amour | The above right image is courtesy of: Maison Alaïa  

Image courtesy of: Rich'Art

The above four images are courtesy of: Marion de Castilla