"Is there a different example for these younger designers to follow? A more independent path?
You can’t do it in half measures. You have to make the clothes at a really high level. And I think a lot of designers now, they’re not committed to it. If you want to be an [Azzedine] Alaïa, you have to stay really committed to it and not spread out.
[Barneys fashion director] Julie Gilhart told me that Alaïa sold all through the recession; he’s selling now. He wasn’t affected by the ups and downs.
He’s [always] sold. When I went to see him in ‘99, he was having difficulty. But Barneys still would buy and Browns and a few other stores. And he still delivered, delivered late but delivered. He didn’t have a big name, the shoe business was a little dormant at that point, but Alaïa kept designing clothes. He kept designing things that nobody else was making. And that’s why Norma Kamali deserves support. She keeps designing things that are interesting. Sure, she does the bathing suits and the parkas, but she does other things, too. She keeps moving. And Azzedine is still working every night until three in the morning making something interesting. And I think the basis for it is a technique. It’s not a pretty dress. It’s a technique that interests Azzedine. He can figure out how to industrialize ruching or industrialize something else, so people who say technique is irrelevant are wrong. It isn’t. It motivates most of the serious designers. It motivates craftsmen. It was what motivated the most recent Jil Sander collection. It was what motivated Martin Margiela when he was first coming along. It’s funny, I saw Karl Lagerfeld during Couture and we were talking about these jackets and dresses he did that he said were seamless. They weren’t seamless, but they kind of look it. It’s really interesting how he did it. I said, how long have you been working on that? He said, well, we’ve been trying to do it for a while but I wasn’t happy with the results. He said, you know I don’t take vacations, I work all the time. That’s Karl’s spiel but it’s true. He and Azzedine, they don’t like each other, but they’re identical when it comes to the fact that they work all the time. And the proof is in the clothes. They come up with things that nobody else can."
-Dirk Standen interviews Cathy Horyn on the future of fashion