Mourning Alaïa: The Designer’s Friends and Collaborators React

After the news of Azzedine Alaïa’s death broke early Saturday, Instagram and Twitter flooded with tributes to the Tunisian-born designer. Below, some of the designer’s closest friends and collaborators shared their thoughts with us.

“I think one of the most memorable fashion moments I’ve ever had was seeing the wedding dress that Azzedine created for me. I didn’t know what the completed gown looked like until hours before my wedding; it was an incredible moment and the dress is a true work of art. The craftsmanship and hand-detailing are overwhelming. He was still stitching it on me moments before I walked down the aisle. Azzedine was a master because he understood the soul and the anatomy of women. I was lucky to have him as a constant presence throughout my entire career. I am forever grateful to mon papa.” — Stephanie Seymour, model

“Azzedine Alaïa believed that every woman should look and feel beautiful. And this belief was infused in every stitch of his being. His generosity goes beyond fashion. I will miss him, deeply.” — Ikram Goldman, owner of the Chicago boutique Ikram

“In my point of view, Azzedine was one of the most important designers in the world. Not just for the last 10 years. … I have too many memories, I could make two books about it. I considered him my best friend.” — Gilles Bensimon, photographer

“A long time ago, on a night when we were drinking, he told me, ‘When I am a ghost, my spirit will inhabit your body.’ And I responded, ‘But Monsieur Alaïa, I’m too small.’ We laughed and laughed. Now I regret not answering, ‘Yes, please.’ Regardless, he’s eternally in my heart. I didn’t know I could cry so many tears.” — Hideki Seo, Alaïa’s first assistant

“I am numb. I learned so much from Azzedine. And I thought he was indestructible. It’s a bit devastating to hear this news.” — Joe McKenna, a stylist who made a film about Alaïa last year

“I think Azzedine was completely uncompromising, which made his clothes so special and unique and loved by so many people. My favorite memory of him is sitting in his store with Grace Jones watching the video of the couture show — it doesn’t get much more glamorous than that. He also made my brown snakeskin wedding dress, and it was such an honor to fulfill a childhood dream of ‘Getting married in Azzedine.’” — Katie Grand, stylist and editor in chief of Love magazine

“These days, people come, they party, they become celebrities, they become all these things within their jobs — he wasn’t that. He just loved his work and sat and did it all day, all night. That’s so rare.

“My boyfriend, Didier, said, ‘You know, he is the only designer I ever saw with a needle and a thread in his hand.’ And it’s true: He actually did sew together his beautiful, extraordinary dresses. He sculpted with a needle and thread in a way that was totally unique.

“I remember the first time I met him, but I can’t remember when it was. I guess it was early on in his career and I was working for British Vogue, and I was told by Joan Burstein from the shop Browns in London, who was — is — a genius at sniffing out new designers and brilliant people. And she said, ‘You’ve got to go see this guy.’ So I went with some of my colleagues from British Vogue.

“And I remember he kept me waiting, kept me waiting, kept us all waiting. We couldn’t even get in the door. Eventually we got in, and there were all these little tables, and we saw these girls in the distance go by in these amazing clothes, and you could hear him talking. Eventually we worked our way to him, but it was a bit of a one-way conversation because I don’t speak French and he didn’t speak English. But he was just so funny, he had this really crazy, mischievous humor. So we started talking, and I’m looking open-mouthed at his clothes, which are so brilliant, and then he said, ‘I’m only going to let you photograph these clothes if you put me on the cover … with my dog.’ (He had that very snappy little Yorkshire terrier called Patapouf.) He was with a dead-straight face. And this was the first time I met him, so it was kind of really ridiculous and funny.

The designer walks down a Paris street in 1986 with the model Frederique and his two Yorkshire terriers, Patapouf and Wabo.CreditArthur Elgort/Conde Nast/Contour by Getty Images

“But after that we did become really good friends, and I spent a lot of time with him. And I wore his clothes exclusively for a very long period of time, you know, when I had a body that could actually take those shapes.

“He was always surrounded by people and friends and animals. I’m a great animal person, so I always loved him for that. Now he doesn’t have Patapouf anymore but he does have that huge St. Bernard who is equally snappy. It is funny how he does attract snappy dogs.

“One of my biggest memories was sitting down in that huge kitchen that he had that was such a meeting point of so many people. It could be anyone from the garbage man to some huge buyer to whatever. He mixed everybody together and somehow made it work, because he was the one in the middle. And he actually did the cooking himself a lot of the time. He was a really great person. And very, very loyal.” — Grace Coddington, creative director at large at Vogue

Others paid tribute on social media:

Vanessa Friedman is The Times’s fashion director and chief fashion critic. She was previously the fashion editor of the Financial Times. @VVFriedman

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