- (c. 1940- )Born in Tunisia, this designer was raised by his grandparents and later studied sculpture at L'École des beaux-arts de Tunis. Alàia learned the high standards of couture when he entered the fashion industry as a dressmaker's assistant, a position in which he learned how to copy couture gowns. He left Tunis for Paris in 1957; he worked for Christian Dior then Guy Laroche until he began making clothes for private clients. He opened a small salon on the Left Bank where he catered to socialites, movie stars, and models while occasionally freelancing for name designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler, and Charles Jourdan. In 1970, he created a ready-to-wear line for his shop and in 1981 launched his first collection to rave reviews. By 1983, he had opened a boutique in Beverly Hills and was a hotly sought-after designer to the stars because of his contoured, clingy, curvy, body-shaping lines.Alàia is famous for his expert tailoring and use of stretch fabrics as body corsets. The French Ministry of Culture awarded him the Designer of the Year award in 1985. His work has been shown in retrospectives at the Bordeaux Museum of Contemporary art in 1984, at the Groninger Museum 1998, and in an exhibition (Radical Fashion) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2001. In 2000, Prada acquired a stake in the company and he showed his first couture collection in 2003. However, Alàia shunned the overmarketing of his contemporaries and limited his ventures. After several decades in business, his only planned project is to launch a fragrance. His fashion shows are few yet his clients are numerous including Madonna, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Kim Basinger, and Paloma Picasso, as well as supermodels and film stars.
Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. Francesca Sterlacci and Joanne Arbuckle.
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