At Alaia, Pieter Mulier makes it intimate
Sotiris Kaberis30. 1. 2023
For his latest Alaia collection, Pieter Mulier invites us into his own maison.
We are living into foggy and uncertain times in the land of fashion. Scandals are breaking out, brands are changing their own business structure and designers moving from one power house to the other. Welcome to a new year, and a new round of fashion’s musical chairs game. Within these constant shifts of the industry, there is a kind of stability which comes from designers who always were (and will be) there to pull the strings through their own creative touch. One of them was Azzedine Alaia who passed away in 2017. A man who alway had a unique approach to what haute couture is. One of his talents was the ability of understanding the body and how to glorify it through cloth and craft. Besides that mister Alaia was well known for his smile, kindness and great essence of hospitality. Virtues that seem like a rare thing in an industry full of stiffness and attitude. In our days these kinds of vibes feel stale due to a redirection of society’s behaviour that waving the flag of a new era. Apparently, there is a big shift coming and that’s something we are noticing through the catwalks and the way that shows are being held and designers are behaving.
Pieter Mulier’s arrival at the Maison Alaia was a nice addition into the fashion system. The Belgian designer paid honour to the founder of the house and regenerated a lost essence of sexiness through his own spectrum. A kind of sensuality that was missing from the industry. A silent one, which reflects every woman’s personality through multiple layers of fabric. For his latest Alaia collection, creative director Pieter Mulier makes a different and unexpected move that also has a significant impact in the way that industry operates. The designer decided to take his guests on a trip a lot further than the Alaia headquarters in Paris. This time he chose Antwerp as the ultimate destination and his own house as the show space which completely fulfils his vision. It takes a lot of effort and guts to invite the fashion crowd (and celebrities) into your own house (yes, some people were even sitting on the bed) and put yourself out there like an open book, ready to be seen. Everyone can detect your flaws in a few minutes. This was perhaps the most dichotomised show space choice we've seen in the last years. On one side it reminded us of the exclusive privileges of haute couture but on the other side it was way too personal and individualistic. A gesture of kindness and respect.
Foto: Courtesy of Alaia
These types of choices give us a new perspective of how we see fashion. It feels more intimate and customers create a special bond with the product, but also changing the norms and stereotypes at the same time. Exactly like what Martin Margiela did with his 1989 show by staging it in a playground, out in public, giving access to everyone. It was an unforgettable moment that people instantly loved. On his own side, Pieter Mulier threw a different performance by guiding us through his personal space (something that many contemporary artists do as a way for people to understand their art), where he sleeps, rests, eats, reads and where he created the collection. Models were passing through his personal spaces making us bond with the whole creative process but also with the designer himself generating emotions through sensitivity and elegance.
Sometimes in order for people to share and wear your essence of creativity, eventually you have to show not only your taste but also your own self. Mr. Mulier did it successfully by putting his thoughts and raw creation on the forefront. As a result the Summer-Fall 2023 collection forges a new dynamic in what we define as modern sensuality in fashion. Black structure jackets were decorated with zippers and silver grommets while mini and maxi dresses had veils. Signatures of the houses like the laser cutted details and turtlenecks were going under Mr Mulier’s prism in a concept that perhaps was too aligned with the brand’s history. Although the collection itself wasn’t a retrospective one, or meant to pay tribute to Azzedine Alaia through the essence of preservanse. On the contrary it was an approach fully characterised by temporality, boldness, functionality and sexiness. And yes, even an all black ball gown can be sexy, without showing any skin at all.