Nuevo Culture

An Icon for an Icon: Pieter Mulier Invites Paolo Roversi to Shoot His New Alaïa Archetypes

Since his appointment we’ve wondered what Pieter Mulier’s Alaïa would look like. The Belgian designer’s Instagram has offered tantalizing, but sparse clues: tight shots of works in progress, a portrait of Charles James at a fitting, Martin Margiela’s glass slipper, and snapshots of Mulier himself in the atelier mirror. Now, though, we have a clearer picture.

In the lead-up to his runway debut on July 4, Mulier commissioned Paolo Roversi to photograph Alaïa icons—the bodysuit, corset belt, corolla skirt, hood, and jumpsuit, included—as he’s interpreted them anew. Knitted from a Japanese yarn with reflective properties, the emblematic pieces practically glow in Roversi’s chiaroscuro images. Mulier sees them as mood setting for a collection that will be defined by elegance, precision, beauty, and emotion.

When Alaïa died in 2017 he left behind three decades of rigorous yet sensual work, which the house has based collections on in the years since. Mulier, in his first creative director role after 15 years as Raf Simons’s righthand man, says he’s spent much time in the Alaïa archives. “As Azzedine was a genius of the hand, it’s very interesting to see how he crafted clothes.” For more on what to expect from his first outing for the maison, read Mulier’s emailed responses to our questions below.

Tell us about this project with Paolo Roversi. What did you want these photos to convey?

These archetypes are setting the mood of the collection. They are classics—icons—and we needed an icon to shoot them. That’s why I thought about Paolo. Translated into Azzedine’s creation “sexuality” became of the utmost elegance. He never objectified the female figure but celebrated it. That’s what these poetic shots are about. Iconic shapes, precision, poetry like a Flemish painting. It’s above casting, trends, it’s just absolute beauty.

What are the most surprising things you’ve learned about Alaïa since you joined the house?

I knew Azzedine had a very uncompromising way to deal with the fashion calendar and time in general. He was taking his own time, but I also discovered that his clothes withstand time. They are eternal. While I was discussing with Richemont, I bought a lot of vintage pieces and each time I realized they were immune to aging. At Alaïa, creation has its own pace. Such a rare thing in the landscape of fashion. Time as luxury.

Do you have a favorite piece that Alaïa designed? What about a favorite collection?

Without a doubt: spring 2003. It still makes me dream. My favorite piece is the perforated belt from 1992.

How will you make use of the archive?

I have dived deep into the archives. As Azzedine was a genius of the hand, it’s very interesting to see how he crafted clothes. He was one of the first French couturiers to experiment with the technical possibilities of stretch knitted fabrics. His clothes have an indefinite relevance.

How are you approaching Alaïa’s signature body-hugging silhouette in a post-lockdown world? How has the pandemic changed the way you think about fashion?

After what we’ve been through, I think we all need beauty. I’m not talking about perfection or beauty standards, but a true emotion. Seeking this emotion was the goal with this collection. Beauty above fashion.

What has it been like to build a team of your own for the first time?

I’ve always built a team before at Jil [Sander], Dior, or Calvin [Klein]. At Alaïa surprisingly, I didn’t. I came alone with only one collaborator out of respect for the teams in place and I’m very grateful for their passion and the way they welcomed me.

What advice did Raf Simons and/or your partner Matthieu Blazy give you?

Take your time. Be respectful. Be you.

How will you keep the family spirit of the Alaïa brand alive?

The family spirit of Alaïa is a real virtue. There is indeed a loving family at rue de Moussy and they have been so generous to me. But it also goes beyond that. Azzedine’s family was diverse, open, democratic. Values I wish to perpetrate and nurture in the future.

Photo: Paolo Roversi / Courtesy of Alaïa
Photo: Paolo Roversi / Courtesy of Alaïa
Photo: Paolo Roversi / Courtesy of Alaïa