It’s been almost two years since the death of Azzedine Alaïa in 2017, at age 82. In that time, the Tunisian couturier has been regularly celebrated with small exhibitions at his atelier in the Marais—18 rue de la Verrerie. The fourth of these, curated by Olivier Saillard, is called “Azzedine Alaïa, Another Way to Look at Fashion: The Tati Collection.” The name Tati, of course, refers to the French discount department store known not only for “the best bargains,” but for its trademark awnings—a canvas of pink gingham, scaled large. Alaïa’s collection, cut from bolts of Tati gingham in bright red, black, and blue, sees him spinning out stunning variations on the theme of downmarket luxe.
In his trips to and from Tunisia, Alaïa often saw Parisians with gingham Tati bags packed to bursting. It was the painter Julian Schnabel, however, who inspired the collection. Upon Tati’s gingham canvas Schnabel made large paintings—three of which are in this show. “After I saw Schnabel’s paintings,” said Alaïa, “I decided that the pied de coq motif would be wonderful for jeans.” Alaïa called the owners of Tati, who were delighted to give him all the cloth he needed, and from Tati cotton he designed his entire Spring-Summer 1991 collection. Bearing in mind that anyone could afford Tati, Alaïa also designed T-shirts, a bag, and espadrilles especially for the store. I remember buying them at the time!
The light-filled exhibition space contains 24 outfits. Impeccably cut jackets and trousers, bikini tops, belted corset dresses, and racer-back bustiers—all in gingham—are accessorized with gingham hats and gloves. One forgets how whimsical couturiers used to be. Of course you had to have young legs to wear the short-shorts, and a wasp waist for the bras and bodysuits. Thierry Perez’s video of the 1991 show is a lot of fun, as is the film of Kylie Minogue wearing Tati Alaïa in “Rhythm of Love.” —Laure de Gramont