ANTWERP, BELGIUM — Designer Azzedine Alaia, who passed away in 2017, was known not only for her rigorous and unique approach to fabric and the body, but also for her hospitality. Everyone’s favorite place to eat. Guests who walked in for the preview often stayed for couscous, sitting next to one of the atelier’s smaller mains, much like Kim Kardashian and Pedro Almodóvar.
So when Alaia’s current creative director, Peter Mullier, announced that he would be presenting the brand’s next collection at his home in Antwerp rather than at Alaia’s headquarters in Paris, it was both unexpected. eh, personal? — and it makes a lot of sense.
After all, if you want people to share their preferences, you have to be willing to show them.
Mr. Muria did.
Guests, including longtime Alaïa followers such as Belgian designers Dries Van Noten and Raf Simons, French actor Vincent Cassel and gallerist Clemens Kszentowski, will be seated on the top floor of Riverside Tower. We visited one of Mr. Mulier’s two-story concrete masterpiece apartments. A brutal building designed in 1968 by Leon Stinen and Paul de Maier. All of Antwerp stretched out below. On one side was the harbor. On the other, the cathedral and the city center.
They sat on benches, chairs, and even Mr. Murier’s bed, as models climbed ramps from one floor to another, past kitchens, home offices, and book-filled libraries. The fireplace caught fire. The clothes were so close together that they almost brushed the noses of about 100 participants.
A leather skater skirt (black like the leather on Mr. Mulier’s benches and beds) has seams that wrap around the body and silver staples (a successor to Mr. Alaïa’s trademark silver grommets and spiraling silver zippers). ) is scratched. Staples also traced the arms of a lapelless hourglass jacket that crisscrossed the torso, shaped above the waist and along the sides of a strapless bodysuit. Spilled.
Architectural cocoon coats had supple, curved lapels and portrait collars. There was a knitted velor bandage on his skirt, trousers that turned sideways before narrowing at the ankles, and a white shirt that was folded back to front. Finally, two skinny turtleneck tops exploded into a bell-shaped rustling silk skirt. Mullier said it was a reference to a made-up game he used to play with his mother.
One of the struggles for a designer taking over the helm of another designer’s house is wrestling with heritage and how it should be taken literally. Is it maintaining silhouettes and signature garments (Bars! Smoking! Bouclé jackets!), or is it a more abstract set of values such as strength, rigor and functionality?
So far at Alaïa, Mulier has been on the wrong side of the first approach, with mixed results. This time, within the framework of his own home, which was both charming and frugal, he began to move further towards the second.
It wasn’t a possible reset. The collection was more structural than spiritual Alaïa. Mr. Alaia follows more faithfully to the past than ever before.
Afterwards, a dinner was held at KMSKA, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp. The museum recently reopened after an 11-year renovation that saw a modern structure embedded in the courtyard of an old building (metaphor alert). A group of models arrived in costume from the runway.
Creeping over two long tables under the gaze of giant Rubens oil, they looked as if they never wanted to leave the table.