Unless you’ve been living under a rock with those guys from that Geico commercial, you’re probably used to fast fashion—wear it today, trash it tomorrow. But fashion’s ruthless pace isn’t just unsustainable, it’s also “inhuman,” according to designer Azzedine Alaïa. “Today there is no time for creativity; nobody has time to develop a special silhouette or a special fabric,” the Tunisian-born couturier tells the Business of Fashion. “Four collections for women, four collections for men, another four collections to sell, and everything needs do be done within four, five months—it’s a one-way course towards emptiness. It’s inhuman.”

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Remember that scene in Clueless where Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone) is being held at gunpoint but refuses to drop to the ground because it might ruin her dress? “Oh, no,” she pleads. “You don’t understand; this is an Alaïa.” Yes, we just quoted Clueless to make a point, but here it is: You don’t refuse an armed gunman’s request for just any designer. Would Cher have hesitated the same way if she were wearing Forever 21? We think not.

“You don’t understand; this is an Alaïa,” Cher pleads to an armed robber in Clueless.

Once upon a time, making and selling just a handful of exquisite garments at a time—like wearable pieces of art—was something to aspire to. Alaïa, for one, hasn’t forgotten that. Rather than churning garment after garment every season like many fashion houses do, Alaïa prefers to work—and show—at his leisure. “I refuse to work in a static rhythm,” he says. “Why should I sacrifice my creativity to that? That’s not fashion, that’s industrial work.”

But in an industry that believes who makes the most clothes wins, designers are being squeezed out like lemons, then tossed aside, according to Alaïa. “Look what has happened to John Galliano or this poor young guy from Balmain, who is now in a psychiatric hospital,” he says. “After five or six seasons, he was already broken. Or last year, McQueen—dead. And there are many more that are just so tired. There is a pressure that is mad.”

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First Lady Michelle Obama wore Azzedine Alaia at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2009.


Consumers—that is, us—are partly to blame for this phenomenon. Why do we buy seven variations of the same mediocre skirt every season instead one so expertly tailored we’ll keep it for the rest of our lives? “If you do one beautiful skirt per season, that already is a miracle,” Alaïa says. “If you do one manteau that women desire, you have won. You don’t need to do long coats, short coats, one with a zipper this way and another one with buttons that way.”

Thinking in terms of Spring/Summer, Resort, Pre-Fall, and Fall/Winter is outmoded and unnecessary, says Alaïa.

Although the “official” fashion seasons (Spring/Summer, Resort, Pre-Fall, Fall/Winter, for starters ) appear as absolute as adding “Mercedes-Benz” before “Fashion Week”—it used to be called “Press Week,” FYI—thinking in those terms is outmoded and unnecessary. “People travel a lot today,” Alaïa quips. “Seasons are not what they used to be—we go skiing in the summer, swimming in winter. We don’t need to think in seasons anymore; we need to think about beautiful clothes. We really have to do something about this situation in fashion.”

Another reason why Alaïa is so revered is that his clothes are so breathtaking that calling them “clothes” seems inadequate. He still pieces each dress together with his own hands in his own home. (If that isn’t quality control, we don’t know what is.) Many women around the globe would hurt and maim to get their mitts on one of his masterpieces and once they do, they don’t let go. And since each pieces costs thousands of dollars, you’d have to be as gaga as Galliano to throw anything away; so, yeah, you won’t find any Alaïas contributing to the trash in our landfills, either.

So did this fashion legend’s opinions about slow fashion change your mind about how you’re going to consume clothes? Tell us why or why not in the comments.

+ Business of Fashion