azzedine alaïa thinks the fashion system is inhumane

And survives on two hours' sleep a night.

by Alice Newell-Hanson
02 March 2016, 5:53pm

​Photography Sølve Sundsbø

Like a long list of highly functional people from Thomas Edison to Martha Stewart, Azzedine Alaïa runs on very little sleep. In a new interview with WWD, the petit Parisian details his idiosyncratic working habits and how he has managed to balance the increasingly frenzied working pace expected of designers with elegance and flair (and long lunches of roast beef).

While the designer has long resisted the demands of the current fashion calendar (this season's Alaïa presentation will happen a month after Paris Fashion Week, on April 3, in the safety of the designer's showroom), he is not immune to its pressures. For more than three decades, he has apparently been working from 9am into the early morning, often surviving on as little as two hours' sleep a night.

"He's not part of the system," Alaïa's friend Alber Elbaz explains. "He's created a system of his own." The "system" on which his fellow designers operate, Alaïa says, has spun out of control: "It's not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach. But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It's unsustainable. There are too many collections."

As a result, he suggests that plagiarism and reliance on vintage inspirations have become epidemic in fashion. He notes that one brand presented "a direct copy of my 1985 dress that Tina Turner wore," and that "too many copies" go undetected. He also acknowledges the toll that presenting multiple collections a year takes on his peers. "It's almost inhumane, the amount of work today," he says, adding later, "Very few can handle it. It's a life that's too accelerated."

And like the pint-sized genius himself, Alaïa's solution is perfectly compact: "creativity," he says, is the answer. "We don't have good ideas every day, it's not possible. Nobody has new ideas every day," and so designers need more time. Alaïa himself, he jokes, is "like a cowboy" riding into the sunset after good ideas. He's always done it his way.


Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Photography Sølve Sundsbø

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