Some clothes want to be instantly adored. Alaïa’s want to be considered first.
The courting begins with an email, sent on the morning of the brand’s runway show in Paris by creative director Pieter Mulier, who is a Belgian disciple of Raf Simons and the reason your friend bought those Alaïa mesh ballet flats for over $1,000.
He writes, “This collection is about simplicity and purity, about less meaning more—about intimacy....It is a decision, a choice, not to minimize but to focus, to expand possibilities.” Mulier adds that all the clothes include “a single yarn” sourced from merino wool and then reinvented by fabric technicians for over a year.
The presentation is held at Alaïa’s mirror-paneled boutique on Rue de Marignan, the same manicured street where you can watch various Kardashians strut out of the famed L’Avenue restaurant. Because it can only fit 60 people at a time, three runway rounds are held like a kind of ultra-chic repertory theater performance, and mega-models Rianne Van Rompaey and Julia Nobis keep cycling through the store in five-inch stilettos. They walk in measured, deliberate steps. This might be a riff on “slow fashion” but is likely just to give viewers an opportunity to gape at the clothes in their full mon dieu glory—and yes, they’re pretty glorious.
Mulier says this collection is “based on the curve, on the circle—the curves of women, and circles of friends, of chosen family, an idea essential to the essence of Alaïa.” The most grid-worthy example, as featured by Mulier himself: a white spiral gown that turns the wearer into a walking Guggenheim Museum blueprint. (A black version, worn by model Mona Tougaard, will likely land at an Oscars after-party in March.) Tiny circles of super-fine leather also jounced across a slinky black knit; ultra-thin orbs of ivory made up a pair of seemingly weightless balloon pants. There were also some super-literal takes on the thread theme, with sleeves and skirt hems fashioned out of spaghetti-like bunches.
By giving us challenging but cool clothes for smart women, Mulier made a masterful cut-and-sewn case for craftsmanship over trends—and he did it with the same sculptural tailoring, marble-and-midnight color palette, flashes of red, and impeccable finishes that created the cult of Phoebe Philo. But the collections share the same problem, too: Despite claiming to literally celebrate “the curves of women,” there were no models over a certain size to help the clothes do the celebrating.
Altogether, the offering at Alaïa was astounding—the slink-and-swirl dresses especially will keep pushing the brand into the coveted sweet spot of “celebrity must-have” and “critical darling.” The cinch-and-pouf coats will make fellow fashion lovers pretty covetous, too, especially since an embellished trench never goes out of style, and rainy weekends are now as much of a New York staple as bodega coffee. As for the oval-legged dark denim trousers? They're by, like, a totally important designer. Let’s all wear them together when we make an appearance at the Val party.
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