Akira

Japanese designer

Born: Maki Akira, Oita, Japan, circa 1949. Education: Graduated from Oita University; worked for and studied fashion with Reiko Minami, Tokyo. Career: Moved to New York, 1974; tailor, Halston, 1976-81; showed first own collection, 1982; began designing wedding dresses for high-end department stores, from late 1990s.

Publications On AKIRA: Articles

Morris, Bernadine, "Bolder Designs for Evening," in the New York

Times, 27 August 1985. Hyde, Ann, "Akira on Bias," in Threads (Newtown, Connecticut),

October/November 1991. Horyn, Cathy, "Saying 'I Do' to a Radical Gown," in the New York

Times, 4 January 2000. "Akira," available online at First View Collections Online,

www.firstview.com, 30 September 2001. "Fashion Victim," available online at www.fashionvictim.com, 30 September 2001.

In the romantic imagination, the artist thrives on alienation, a critical distancing of an "other." Akira is of two worlds. In Japan, he is addressed by his surname, Maki; in America, he uses his first name,

Akira. These are social conventions of two cultures, but they are also the theses and antitheses propagating Akira's fashion. An American designer when he designs ready-to-wear clothing in Japan, Akira is conversely viewed in America as a Japanese designer working for the American custom market. He is, however, both and neither; his state is only relaxed elegance. After studying and first designing in Japan, he came to New York to work with Halston, having been inspired by the work of Halston he found in American fashion magazines.

After working with Halston until 1981, when Akira established his own business, he has become a designer of two identities, with businesses in two countries and a single design philosophy, a synthesis of East and West. In Akira's custom business in New York, he creates out of the distilled, almost astringent principles of design he has maintained since working for Halston, with stress on bias cut, quality materials, color, and timeless elegance. His American custom clients come to him for a sense of personal comfort and self-assured dignity. While some of his American dresses, often bridal gowns, are adorned with beadwork and other decoration, their principle is in the cut. His is the abiding modernist conviction of truth to material and essential geometries of cut that animated Halston. An external simplicity, like that of a composed Japanese interior or a modern Western painting, is achieved through decisive reductivism and the primacy of the fabric.

In his Japanese productions, Akira creats clothing for young women of Japan no less elegant than their American counterparts but perhaps more fashion forward. His suits for daywear and early evening emphasize a comfortable, soft shaping inspired in part by Claude Montana. American sportswear inspirations for the collection in Japan, like Claire McCardell, help create what Akira has acknowledged is a "very American look" reflective of the emergence of Japanese women in the 1980s and 1990s into active, comfortable American lifestyles.

Ann Hyde, writing in the October/November 1991 issue Threads, pointed to the seeming contradiction between Akira's intellect in design and his sensuous achievement. "He is a rationalist at heart," states Hyde, referring to his intense interest in the underlying mathematics and geometry of garments, but he is also a designer of supreme elegance and grace. The unifying factor, like that of Renaissance architecture, is proportion, indivisibly a coolly mathematical calculation and a supremely romantic sensibility.

Citing that he learned from Halston the value of the designer looking in the mirror, seeing front, back, and side in cubist simultaneity and seeing thereby the garment as paramount—not the wearer— Akira points out that the mirror's impression is more canny than the human eye in discerning proportion and balance. Working in the custom design studio of Halston and in his own design business in New York reinforced Akira's principle of design specific to the client but generic to the design ideal in proportion. The same idea is carried through in the ready-to-wear collections in Japan.

Bias has always been an essential feature of Akira's designs, allowing both his design primacy and comfort in wearing. Recalling Halston's layered chiffons as "outrageously beautiful" in color and draping, Akira has used bias to wrap the form, conceiving of fashion not as a series of planes but as continuous volume realized three-dimensionally in the twist and torque of bias. Some collections were inspired by Byzantine art and Turkish culture; others by early Netherlands paintings, especially the work of Jan van Eyck.

Akira's good business sense has kept him afloat in the high flux of the fashion world as it reached an end of a strong economy and a sure decline in client investment in luxury clothes, furs, and accessories. The 21st century found him supplying high-end, avant-garde bridal gowns to Barneys New York, the prewedding mecca of the smart set. Within the new bridal salon, a source of a new trend toward chic understated wedding wear, Akira's line rubbed hangers with the likes of Vera Wang, Jil Sander, Christian Lacroix, and Geoffrey Beene.

If East and West, reason and style have been the antipodes of Akira's work, there is careful synthesis in Akira's garments in both the 20th and 21st centuries. It is an impressive joining of Japanese formality, American simplicity, the restraint of design, and the universal common sense of comfortable, wearable, and yet beautiful clothing.

—Richard Martin; updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass

ALAÏA, Azzedine

French designer

Born: Tunis, Tunisia, circa 1940. Education: Studied sculpture, École des Beaux-Arts, Tunis. Career: Dressmaker's assistant, Tunis; dressed private clients before moving to Paris, 1957; part-time design assistant, Guy Laroche, Thierry Mugler, 1957-59; au pair/dressmaker for the Marquise de Mazan, 1957-60, and for Comtesse Nicole de Blégiers, 1960-65; designer, custom clothing, from 1960; introduced ready-to-wear line, Paris, 1980, and New York, 1982; opened boutiques, Beverly Hills, 1983, Paris, 1985, and New York, 1988-92.

Naomi Campbell Azzedine Alaia
Azzedine Alaïa in 1986. © CORBIS.

Exhibitions: Retrospective, Bordeaux Museum of Modern Art, 1984-85; Retrospective, New York, 2000. Awards: French Ministry of Culture Designer of the Year award, 1985. Address: 18 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris, France.

Publications By ALAÏA: Books

Alaïa, Azzedine, and Michel Tournier, Alaïa, Göttingen, Germany, 1990.

Parent, Marc (ed.), Stella, New York, 2001; Introduction by Alaïa Azzedine.

Howell, Georgina, Sultans of Style: Thirty Years of Fashion and

Passion 1960-1990, London, 1990. Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.

Articles

McCall, Patricia, "Expanded Horizons for Azzedine Alaïa," in the

New York Times Magazine, 5 September 1982. "Now that Fit is It, No One Shapes Up Better than French Designer

Azzedine Alaïa," in People, 27 December 1982. Morris, Bernadine, "The Directions of the Innovations," in the New

York Times Magazine, 27 February 1983. Talley, Andre Leon, "Azzedine Alaïa," in Interview, June 1983. "Stirrups Sport Style: Trousers Worn with Glamour and Ease," in

Vogue, September 1984. "Fashion Meets the Body: Azzedine Alaïa on Splendid Form," in

Vogue (London), July 1985. Ettlinger, Catherine, "This Man Has Brought Back the Body," in

Mademoiselle, October 1985. Salholz, Eloise, "The Man Who Loves Women," in Newsweek, 21 October 1985.

White, Lesley, "At Long Last Alaïa, the Chic of Araby," in Elle

(London), November 1985. Buck, Joan Juliet, "Body Genius: Designer Azzedine Alaïa," in

Vogue, November 1985. "The Azzedine Mystique," in Vogue, February 1986. Arroyuelo, Javier, "L'art de vivre d'Azzedine Alaïa," in Vogue

(Paris), March 1986. Dryansky, G. Y., "An Eye for Allure," in Connoisseur, August 1986. Worthington, Christa, "The Rise and Fall of Azzedine Alaïa," in

Women's Wear Daily, 17 October 1986. "Trois Créateurs: Leur Classiques, Azzedine Alaïa, la Perfection des

Lignes," in Elle (Paris), 10 November 1986. "Alaïa: La Passion du Vert," in Elle (Paris), March 1987. Gross, Michael, "The Evolution of Alaïa: A New Ease Takes Over,"

in the New York Times, 31 March 1987. Drier, Deborah, "The Defiant Ones," in Art in America (New York),

September 1987. "Alaïa: The Total Look," in Elle (Paris), 26 October 1987.

decline in client investment in luxury clothes, furs, and accessories. The 21st century found him supplying high-end, avant-garde bridal gowns to Barneys New York, the prewedding mecca of the smart set. Within the new bridal salon, a source of a new trend toward chic understated wedding wear, Akira's line rubbed hangers with the likes of Vera Wang, Jil Sander, Christian Lacroix, and Geoffrey Beene.

If East and West, reason and style have been the antipodes of Akira's work, there is careful synthesis in Akira's garments in both the 20th and 21st centuries. It is an impressive joining of Japanese formality, American simplicity, the restraint of design, and the universal common sense of comfortable, wearable, and yet beautiful clothing.

—Richard Martin; updated by Mary Ellen Snodgrass

ALAÏA, Azzedine

French designer

Born: Tunis, Tunisia, circa 1940. Education: Studied sculpture, École des Beaux-Arts, Tunis. Career: Dressmaker's assistant, Tunis; dressed private clients before moving to Paris, 1957; part-time design assistant, Guy Laroche, Thierry Mugler, 1957-59; au pair/dressmaker for the Marquise de Mazan, 1957-60, and for Comtesse Nicole de Blégiers, 1960-65; designer, custom clothing, from 1960; introduced ready-to-wear line, Paris, 1980, and New York, 1982; opened boutiques, Beverly Hills, 1983, Paris, 1985, and New York, 1988-92.

Blegiers France
Azzedine Alaïa in 1986. © CORBIS.

Exhibitions: Retrospective, Bordeaux Museum of Modern Art, 1984-85; Retrospective, New York, 2000. Awards: French Ministry of Culture Designer of the Year award, 1985. Address: 18 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris, France.

Publications By ALAÏA: Books

Alaïa, Azzedine, and Michel Tournier, Alaïa, Göttingen, Germany, 1990.

Parent, Marc (ed.), Stella, New York, 2001; Introduction by Alaïa Azzedine.

Howell, Georgina, Sultans of Style: Thirty Years of Fashion and

Passion 1960-1990, London, 1990. Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.

Articles

McCall, Patricia, "Expanded Horizons for Azzedine Alaïa," in the

New York Times Magazine, 5 September 1982. "Now that Fit is It, No One Shapes Up Better than French Designer

Azzedine Alaïa," in People, 27 December 1982. Morris, Bernadine, "The Directions of the Innovations," in the New

York Times Magazine, 27 February 1983. Talley, Andre Leon, "Azzedine Alaïa," in Interview, June 1983. "Stirrups Sport Style: Trousers Worn with Glamour and Ease," in

Vogue, September 1984. "Fashion Meets the Body: Azzedine Alaïa on Splendid Form," in

Vogue (London), July 1985. Ettlinger, Catherine, "This Man Has Brought Back the Body," in

Mademoiselle, October 1985. Salholz, Eloise, "The Man Who Loves Women," in Newsweek, 21 October 1985.

White, Lesley, "At Long Last Alaïa, the Chic of Araby," in Elle

(London), November 1985. Buck, Joan Juliet, "Body Genius: Designer Azzedine Alaïa," in

Vogue, November 1985. "The Azzedine Mystique," in Vogue, February 1986. Arroyuelo, Javier, "L'art de vivre d'Azzedine Alaïa," in Vogue

(Paris), March 1986. Dryansky, G. Y., "An Eye for Allure," in Connoisseur, August 1986. Worthington, Christa, "The Rise and Fall of Azzedine Alaïa," in

Women's Wear Daily, 17 October 1986. "Trois Créateurs: Leur Classiques, Azzedine Alaïa, la Perfection des

Lignes," in Elle (Paris), 10 November 1986. "Alaïa: La Passion du Vert," in Elle (Paris), March 1987. Gross, Michael, "The Evolution of Alaïa: A New Ease Takes Over,"

in the New York Times, 31 March 1987. Drier, Deborah, "The Defiant Ones," in Art in America (New York),

September 1987. "Alaïa: The Total Look," in Elle (Paris), 26 October 1987.

"Finally Alaïa Shows—to Mixed Reaction," in Women's Wear Daily,

13 November 1987. "The New Spirit of Azzedine Alaïa," in Vogue, February 1988. "La Femme un peu Provocante d'Alaïa," in Elle (Paris), 4 April 1988. "Atmosphère Alaïa," in Vogue (Paris), August 1988. "Alaïa e Gaultier: Due Stilisti a Confronto," in Vogue (Milan), October 1988.

"24 Heures de la Vie d'un Tailleur," in Elle (Paris), 24 October 1988. Nonkin, Leslie, "Azzedine Addicts: Affection Turns to Affliction for

Alaïa's Curvaceous Clothes," in Vogue, November 1988. "Le Printemps d'Azzedine Alaïa," in Elle (Paris), 20 February 1989. Maiberger, Elise, "Azzedine Alaïa's Late Late Show," in Vogue

(London), March 1989. Scott, Jan, "Call This Man Alaïa," in Paris Passion, March/April 1989.

"All About Alaïa," in Elle (New York), April 1989. Gross, Michael, "Azzedine When He Sizzles," in New York, 15 May 1989.

Radakovich, Anka, "Downtown Chic," in Harper's Bazaar, November 1989.

Howell, Georgina, "The Titan of Tight," in Vogue, March 1990. Roberts, Michael, "Alaïa, Alaïa, Style on Fire," in the Sunday Times

Magazine (London), 25 March 1990. Lennard, Jonathan, "Alaïa," in Paris Passion, July 1990. Howell, Georgina, "Acting Up for Azzedine," in the Sunday Times

Magazine (London), 7 October 1990. Schnabel, Julian, "Azzedine Alaïa," in Interview (New York), October 1990.

Schiro, Anne-Marie, "Alaïa for the Slim and Curvaceous," in the New

York Times, 5 April 1992. Lindbergh, Peter, "Such Allure, Such Alaïa," in Interview, June 1992. "Azzedine Alaïa," in Current Biography, October 1992. Donovan, Carrie, "Alaïa's Devoted Fans," in the New York Times, 15 December 1992.

Spindler, Amy, "Alaïa and Léger Loosen Up a Bit," in the New York

Times, 20 March 1993. "Boiled Becomes Cool," in the New York Times, 3 April 1994. Sischy, Ingrid, "The Outsider," in the New Yorker, 7 November 1994. Horyn, Cathy, "Meeting the Enemy: Overstimulation," in the New York Times, 7 March 2000.

-, "Genius Has a Habit of Showing Up Every so Often," in the

New York Times, 2 May 2000. Middleton, William, and Craig McDean, "Giant," in Harper's Bazaar, August 2000.

Horyn, Cathy, "For Alaïa, a Retrospective and a New Deal," in the

New York Times, 23 September 2000.

Dubbed the King of Cling by the fashion press in the 1980s, Azzedine Alaïa inspired a host of looks energizing High Street fashion, including the stretch mini, Lycra cycling shorts, and the bodysuit. His designs were renowned for displaying the female body and, accordingly, bedecked the bodies of off-duty top models and stars such as Tina Turner, Raquel Welch, Madonna, Brigitte Nielson, Naomi Campbell, and Stephanie Seymour. Alaïa's clothes caught the mood of the times when many women had turned to exercise and a new, muscled body shape had begun to appear in the pages of fashion magazines. Many women wanted to flaunt their newly-toned bodies, helped by recent developments in fabric construction that enabled designers to create clothing to accentuate the female form in a way unprecedented in European fashion.

Prior to his success in the 1980s, Alaïa studied sculpture at the School of Beaux-Arts in Tunis. He moved to Paris in 1957 and lived in a tiny apartment on the Left Bank, paying his rent and bills by babysitting while pursuing his dreams. He apprenticed to Christian Dior for five days before landing a two-year stint (1957-59) as a parttime design assistant for Guy Laroche and Thierry Mugler. He also served as an au pair and dressmaker for the likes of the Marquise de Mazan and the Comtesse Nicole de Blégiers (1957-65). He began designing private works in 1960, and his elite clientele eventually expanded to include Greta Garbo, Claudette Colbert, Cécile de Rothschild, and French film star Arletty.

Following in the footsteps of the ancien régime of Parisian haute couture, Alaïa is a perfectionist about cut, drape, and construction, preferring to work directly on the body to achieve a perfect fit. Tailoring is his great strength—he does all his own cutting—and although his clothes appear very simple, they are complex in structure. Some garments contain up to 40 individual pieces linked together to form a complex mesh that moves and undulates with the body. The beauty of his design comes from the shape and fit of the garments, enhanced by his innovative use of crisscross seaming.

His method of clothing construction includes repeated fitting and cutting on the body. His technique of sculpting and draping perhaps comes naturally to him, since he studied sculpture at L'École des Beaux-Arts in Tunis, but also owes much to Madeleine Vionnet, the great tailleur of the 1920s, famed for the intricacies of her bias-cut crêpe dresses that molded closely to the body. Vionnet applied the delicate techniques of lingerie sewing to outerwear, as has Alaïa, who combines the stitching and seaming normally used in corsetry to achieve the perfect fit of his clothes. Combined with elasticated fabrics for maximum body exposure, his garments hold and control the body, yet retain their shape.

Although, at first sight, Alaïa's clothes seem to cling to the natural silhouette of the wearer, they actually create a second skin, holding in and shaping the body by techniques of construction such as faggoting. This body consciousness is further enhanced by using materials such as stretch lace over flesh-colored fabric to give an illusion, rather than the reality, of nudity.

Alaïa introduced his first ready-to-wear collection of minimalist clothes in 1980 and continued to work privately for individual customers until the mid-1980s. Although his clothes are indebted to the perfection of the female body and indeed, at times, expose great expanses of skin, he manages to avoid vulgarity with muted colors and expert tailoring. He introduced riveted leather, industrial zippers, and a wide range of fabrics, including lace, leather, polymers, silk jersey, and tweed.

Sometime in the mid-1990s, Alaïa vanished from the fashion scene, although in an August 2000 interview in Harper's Bazaar, Alaïa insists he "never went anywhere." In 2000, he burst back into the limelight with a new collection. The new look was a drastic departure from his previous sexy, on-the-edge designs. This collection, described as "much more sober, almost Amish in comparison" by critics, has as its centerpiece the pleat, accentuated by long, Alpine-inspired flower-printed skirts, girly knit dresses, and bead-bedecked leather pleated kilt-style skirts. His classic designs of the

1980s are also being adapted by designers such as Helmut Lang, Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, Nicolas Ghesquire, and Rei Kawakubo for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, and Loewe. Ala'ia also had a retrospective exhibition in September 2000, with an all-star cast turning out to honor him, including fellow designer Calvin Klein, supermodels Stephanie Seymour, Iman, Heidi Klum, and Naomi Campbell, as well as Jocelyne Wildenstein, Polly Mellen, Kate Betts, Daryl Kerrigan, Amanda Lepore, David LaChapelle, and Sigourney Weaver.

In a surprising move, Alaia joined forces with Miuccia Prada's label as a designer, joining Lang, and Prada herself. Ala'ia will continue to handle all distribution in France from his boutique in Paris, and Prada will handle his worldwide distribution.

Ala'ia shows regularly but nevertheless seems above the whims and vagaries of the fashion world, producing timeless garments, rather than designing new looks from season to season, and inspiring the adulation of enthusiastic collectors that was once reserved for Mariano Fortuny.

—Caroline Cox; updated by Daryl F. Mallett

ALBINI, Walter

Italian designer

Born: Born Gualtiero Albini in Busto Arsizio, near Milan, 9 March 1941. Education: Studied fashion and costume design, Istituto Statale di Belle Arti e Moda, Turin, 1959-61. Career: Illustrator for Novita and Corriere Lombardo periodicals, Milan, and freelance sketch artist, Paris, 1961-64; freelance designer for Krizia, Billy Ballo, Basile, Callaghan, Escargots, Mister Fox, Diamantis, Trell, Mario Ferari, Lanerossi, Kriziamaglia, Montedoro, and Princess Luciana, Milan, 1964-83; established Walter Albini fashion house, Milan, 1965; signature ready-to-wear collection introduced, 1978; Walter Albini Fashions branches established, London, Rome, Venice. Died: 31 May 1983, in Milan.

Publications On ALBINI: Books

Vercelloni, Isa, and Flavio Lucchini, Milano Fashion, Milan, 1975. Mulassano, Adriana, The Who's Who of Italian Fashion, Florence, 1979.

Soli, Pia, Il genio antipatico, Venice, 1984.

Buiazzi, Graziella, ed., La moda italiana: Dall'antimoda alio stilismo, Milan, 1987.

Bianchino, Gloria, and Bonizza Giordani Aragno, Walter Albini, Parma, 1988.

Sozzani, Carla, and Anna Masucci, Walter Albini, Milan, 1990. Articles

"Walter Albini," in the Sunday Times (London), 15 October 1972.

"In Focus: Walter Albini," in International Textiles (London), No. 523, 1975.

Etherington-Smith, Meredith, "Albini's New Image," in GQ (New

York), October 1976. "Walter Albini, the Designer's Designer," in Manufacturing Clothier, 1976.

"Lo stile multimaglia in sfumature rare," in Vogue (Milan), October 1978.

"Walter Albini: Italian RTW Designer is Dead," in Women's Wear

Daily (New York), 3 June 1983. "Walter Albini, Men's Wear Innovator, Dies at 42," in the Daily News

Record, 3 June 1983. Skellenger, Gillion, "Walter Albini," in Contemporary Designers, London, 1990.

In William Shakespeare's Richard II, "report of fashions in proud Italy" are the vanguard for what comes to England only in "base imitation." Walter Albini epitomized the brilliant epoch of Italian fashion in the 1970s, when it seized the international imagination. At least as much as any other designer, if not more, Albini had the Italian spirit con brio. Journalists compared him to Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, designers whose careers outlasted Albini's flash of brilliance. Albini brought his obsession with the 1920s and 1930s to the elongated line and youthful energy of the 1970s; his collections of 1969 and 1970 tell the story of his encapsulation of the time: Gymnasium and Gypsy and China in 1969; Antique Market, the PreRaphaelites, Safari, Military, and Polaroid in 1970.

Sadly, Albini so brilliantly embodied the 1970s for Italy (as one would perhaps say of Halston in the U.S.) because of the détente of his work by 1980 and his death in 1983, just after his forty-second birthday. Isa Vercelloni and Flavio Lucchini, in their 1975 book, Milano Fashion, described Albini's mercurial yet gifted personality and habits: "From adolescence he still retained the capacity of dreaming, but with the ability of giving body or a semblance of reality to his world of dreams. He had the rare quality of even doing this without spoiling it. This is why women like his dresses so much. They recognize immediately that imagination is given power."

It was a wide-ranging imagination, indicative of the 1970s in its travelogue-inspired wanderlust, that captured the vivacity of Diana Vreeland's Vogue of the 1960s. Like Vreeland, Albini loved the 1920s and extolled the freedom of women and reminded them of their liberation during that period. Also like Vreeland, Albini was smitten with North Africa and the potential for exoticism. He played with paisley and was fascinated by the pattern and design asymmetry as well as the mysterious women of China. His pragmatic exoticism is evident in a spring 1980 t-blouse and party skirt combination, described in a Harper's Bazaar March 1980 ad as "the mystique of madras. A bit sophisticated for midnight at the oasis.. .but divine for sunset on the patio."

So many collections were produced in his own name and others between the late 1960s and 1980 that he touched upon many themes, but he returned consistently to the 1920s and 1930s. He had moved to Paris because of a lifetime preoccupation with Chanel, whom he had glimpsed during her late years, but he more substantively used her as a touchstone for his collections. His fall 1978 knits, as photographed by

1980s are also being adapted by designers such as Helmut Lang, Marc Jacobs, Narciso Rodriguez, Nicolas Ghesquire, and Rei Kawakubo for the likes of Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, and Loewe. Ala'ia also had a retrospective exhibition in September 2000, with an all-star cast turning out to honor him, including fellow designer Calvin Klein, supermodels Stephanie Seymour, Iman, Heidi Klum, and Naomi Campbell, as well as Jocelyne Wildenstein, Polly Mellen, Kate Betts, Daryl Kerrigan, Amanda Lepore, David LaChapelle, and Sigourney Weaver.

In a surprising move, Alaia joined forces with Miuccia Prada's label as a designer, joining Lang, and Prada herself. Ala'ia will continue to handle all distribution in France from his boutique in Paris, and Prada will handle his worldwide distribution.

Ala'ia shows regularly but nevertheless seems above the whims and vagaries of the fashion world, producing timeless garments, rather than designing new looks from season to season, and inspiring the adulation of enthusiastic collectors that was once reserved for Mariano Fortuny.

—Caroline Cox; updated by Daryl F. Mallett

ALBINI, Walter

Italian designer

Born: Born Gualtiero Albini in Busto Arsizio, near Milan, 9 March 1941. Education: Studied fashion and costume design, Istituto Statale di Belle Arti e Moda, Turin, 1959-61. Career: Illustrator for Novita and Corriere Lombardo periodicals, Milan, and freelance sketch artist, Paris, 1961-64; freelance designer for Krizia, Billy Ballo, Basile, Callaghan, Escargots, Mister Fox, Diamantis, Trell, Mario Ferari, Lanerossi, Kriziamaglia, Montedoro, and Princess Luciana, Milan, 1964-83; established Walter Albini fashion house, Milan, 1965; signature ready-to-wear collection introduced, 1978; Walter Albini Fashions branches established, London, Rome, Venice. Died: 31 May 1983, in Milan.

Publications On ALBINI: Books

Vercelloni, Isa, and Flavio Lucchini, Milano Fashion, Milan, 1975. Mulassano, Adriana, The Who's Who of Italian Fashion, Florence, 1979.

Soli, Pia, Il genio antipatico, Venice, 1984.

Buiazzi, Graziella, ed., La moda italiana: Dall'antimoda alio stilismo, Milan, 1987.

Bianchino, Gloria, and Bonizza Giordani Aragno, Walter Albini, Parma, 1988.

Sozzani, Carla, and Anna Masucci, Walter Albini, Milan, 1990. Articles

"Walter Albini," in the Sunday Times (London), 15 October 1972.

"In Focus: Walter Albini," in International Textiles (London), No. 523, 1975.

Etherington-Smith, Meredith, "Albini's New Image," in GQ (New

York), October 1976. "Walter Albini, the Designer's Designer," in Manufacturing Clothier, 1976.

"Lo stile multimaglia in sfumature rare," in Vogue (Milan), October 1978.

"Walter Albini: Italian RTW Designer is Dead," in Women's Wear

Daily (New York), 3 June 1983. "Walter Albini, Men's Wear Innovator, Dies at 42," in the Daily News

Record, 3 June 1983. Skellenger, Gillion, "Walter Albini," in Contemporary Designers, London, 1990.

In William Shakespeare's Richard II, "report of fashions in proud Italy" are the vanguard for what comes to England only in "base imitation." Walter Albini epitomized the brilliant epoch of Italian fashion in the 1970s, when it seized the international imagination. At least as much as any other designer, if not more, Albini had the Italian spirit con brio. Journalists compared him to Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, designers whose careers outlasted Albini's flash of brilliance. Albini brought his obsession with the 1920s and 1930s to the elongated line and youthful energy of the 1970s; his collections of 1969 and 1970 tell the story of his encapsulation of the time: Gymnasium and Gypsy and China in 1969; Antique Market, the PreRaphaelites, Safari, Military, and Polaroid in 1970.

Sadly, Albini so brilliantly embodied the 1970s for Italy (as one would perhaps say of Halston in the U.S.) because of the détente of his work by 1980 and his death in 1983, just after his forty-second birthday. Isa Vercelloni and Flavio Lucchini, in their 1975 book, Milano Fashion, described Albini's mercurial yet gifted personality and habits: "From adolescence he still retained the capacity of dreaming, but with the ability of giving body or a semblance of reality to his world of dreams. He had the rare quality of even doing this without spoiling it. This is why women like his dresses so much. They recognize immediately that imagination is given power."

It was a wide-ranging imagination, indicative of the 1970s in its travelogue-inspired wanderlust, that captured the vivacity of Diana Vreeland's Vogue of the 1960s. Like Vreeland, Albini loved the 1920s and extolled the freedom of women and reminded them of their liberation during that period. Also like Vreeland, Albini was smitten with North Africa and the potential for exoticism. He played with paisley and was fascinated by the pattern and design asymmetry as well as the mysterious women of China. His pragmatic exoticism is evident in a spring 1980 t-blouse and party skirt combination, described in a Harper's Bazaar March 1980 ad as "the mystique of madras. A bit sophisticated for midnight at the oasis.. .but divine for sunset on the patio."

So many collections were produced in his own name and others between the late 1960s and 1980 that he touched upon many themes, but he returned consistently to the 1920s and 1930s. He had moved to Paris because of a lifetime preoccupation with Chanel, whom he had glimpsed during her late years, but he more substantively used her as a touchstone for his collections. His fall 1978 knits, as photographed by

Harper Bazaar 1934
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