Supermodel Naomi Campbell and Tunisia’s president led mourners in a final tribute Monday to French-Tunisian fashion designer Azzedine Alaia, who died this month aged 77 after winning a worldwide following. Campbell and fellow fashion icon Farida Khelfa, close friends of Alaia, accompanied his remains from France to Tunisia, French Ambassador Olivier Poivre d’Arvor said.
Alaia is to be buried in the famous blue and white village of Sidi Bou. A journalist saw Campbell leaving Alaia’s home surrounded by dozens of people to head for the cemetery of Sidi Bou Said in the northern suburbs of Tunis. President Beji Caid Essebsi, Alaia’s relatives and public figures took part in the commemoration.
Culture Minister Mohamed Zine El Abidine paid tribute to Alaia, saying the designer’s work had expressed “the quintessence, the beauty, the fertile imagination” of Tunisia. Alaia was born to a farming family in Tunisia in 1940 and studied sculpture at the capital’s fine arts school before working at a modest neighborhood dressmaker’s shop.
He moved to Paris in the late 1950s, working briefly for Dior and Guy Laroche before going solo, winning a reputation for sexy designs celebrating the female form. His muses ranged from French actress and singer Arletty to Hollywood icon Greta Garbo and statuesque Jamaican singer and actress Grace Jones.
He was dubbed the “King of Cling” for his form-fitting gowns. Alaia gained world fame in the 1980s with tight black shorts and back-zipping skirts, designs that helped define the confident female silhouette of the time. He refused to march to the beat of international fashion weeks, however, releasing his collections in his own time with scant concern for publicity.