Style reporter Amy Verner is covering the major shows at Paris Couture Fashion Week this week. Follow her on Twitter @amyverner .
Azzedine Alaia is famous for shying away from the spotlight, and his 37-piece "semi-couture" collection is his first official presentation since 2003. The designer is a favourite among a cross-section of influencers: Naomi Campbell, Victoria Beckham, Madonna and even Michelle Obama. He is often vocal about his distaste for the "industry" side of fashion but, through and through, retains an incredibly loyal following.
Oh so civilized and trimmed of hangers-on, the intimate gathering took place in Alaia's showroom in Le Marais and consisted of fashion's power players and clients, plus Kanye West and Sophia Coppola (who, like Milla Jovovich, brought her daughter). No cameras allowed. It took French Minister of Culture and Communication Frédéric Mitterand to drag Alaia out into the gallery for the requisite post-show applause – and an emotional standing ovation.
The collection opened with impeccably streamlined jackets and skirts that showed off judiciously applied zippers and curving seams that recalled vintage cars. For textural variety, Alaia introduced crocodile-stamped patent leather and Mongolian fur, which would typically be cinched at the waist to counter bulk. Mostly, though, the outfits were a flawless overview of his signature cutout fabrications, clingy knitwear, sheer panels in all the right places and tiers of knit ruffles – the ne plus ultra of soigné style.
Like a palate cleanser after an indulgent French meal, Alaia adhered to a predominantly black palette with hints of deep emerald, oxblood and inky navy. Fully buttoned white shirts under many of the jackets created even more crispness. At times, the combination of elements added up to a minimalist Tyrolean look, minus the lederhosen. But then his black laser-cut finale dresses, this time glinting thanks to a shiny under-layer, were far more delicate and exotic.
Did Couture Week's decision makers save the best for last? Well, "best" is a relative superlative, especially in fashion, but there was something particularly fitting about having Alaia cap off three days of sheer decadence.