Azzedine Alaia: Models, Rock Stars and Curry
Posted: Feb 28 2016
I’m taking you on a trip back to the 80s and 90s, before Instagram, before social media, before cell phones! There were no Kardashians, the red carpet wasn’t the fashion show it is today, and MTV was new (and played videos, usually my friends Duran Duran). The only information you could access about fashion was through the fashion bibles of the time: British, Italian and U.S. Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Elle.
It was pre 'Freedom 90', so the supermodel phenom hadn’t peaked just yet. We were a group of young models from around the globe gathered together in a Paris atelier to do a show for a buzzy new Tunisian designer by the name of Azzedine Alaia.
He wasn’t yet dressing famous actresses and First Ladies like Michelle Obama, he was new and starting out in the fashion world. I first met Azzedine at his Atelier in Paris and soon after I was immediately hooked! Though tiny, he was bursting with talent.
He was cutting-edge, innovative, and quite the opposite of the over the top designs that were popular at the time. His clothing was and still is timeless. It’s no wonder that he immediately became a favorite of all the girls, or “Supers”, as they’re widely known today.
When show season would kick off in Paris, we would camp out at his Atelier on Rue de Bellchasse and do five shows for three days. We were a model squad before the term became popular: Cindy, Yassy, Linda, Christy, Naomi, Marpessa, Stephanie, Tatjana, and every other worldly beauty would dominate the catwalk captivating the audience and driving the photographers mad with excitement.
Each design celebrated, every girl more stunning than the next. Azzedine couldn’t afford to pay us, so we would do his shows for free and he would pay us in clothes. In retrospect, it was a smart move. All of us were photographed wearing Azzedine (off duty) and soon it became the model uniform which editors and fashionistas quickly wanted to emulate.
Fashion week was always a hectic time and so it was impossible to slow down and eat proper meals (and champagne could only sustain us for so long). But gathering together for a meal was an important ritual to Azzedine and he would arrange wonderful meals for his girls. His Tunisian chef would whip up a delicious curry lunch and we would gather in his basement chatting with magazine editors, rock stars, stylists, artists, photographers and anybody else in town for the shows.
There was no fear of something showing up on social media, so we all let our guard down and could speak freely. I could write a book and call it "Models, Rock Stars and Curry" to share many stories about when we gathered together, kicked our (Chanel) feet up, and had a lovely meal. He took care of us like family. And family we became.
Our lives were always hectic, we didn’t know when we would see each other again as we were commuting across the pond on the Concorde to do a shoot in New York the next day, so we savored that time at Azzedine’s atelier. It was our quiet time in the fashion storm and through those experiences we were able to bond and create deep friendships that we still have today. Azzendine’s atelier grew and so did our careers, but we continued to go back and do his shows. He was family, we were a family. We were a squad.