Looking back at Azzedine Alaïa's 1991 runway show and how it has impacted fashion today
Fashion, like history, repeats itself. Whether it’s our obsession with all things ’70s, flapper, or girl power, fashion is influenced by many things — but most definitely by its former self. For our current season, we’re seeing a shift towards kitsch and a resurgence of everything ’90s. One of the most telling runway shows of that decade had to be Azzedine Alaïa’s 1991 fall ready-to-wear show, where berets were everywhere, body hugging knits were a staple, and nipped waists were a must. Years later, and the fashion world is still being influenced by this seminal show. Tunisian-born Alaïa made a name for himself in the ’80s, partly due to his sexy knits and shoes. His work continues to influence the fashion set.
We’ve rounded up our favorite trends from Alaïa’s 1991 show that are still influencing fashion today.
Berets or bust
Hats have been making a comeback for the past few seasons, but perhaps the least expected return is that of the beret. Though the beloved hat brings to mind French films, coffee, and the Eiffel Tower, it can still be worn across the pond. And while we’re seeing its newest incarnation on the Fall 2017 runways, we can thank the ’90s for popularizing the beloved French staple. Alaïa paired berets with turtleneck sweater dresses, nipped waist coats with exaggerated shoulders, and suede skirt-jacket sets.
Thankfully, the modern day rendition of the beret is just as easy to pull off. Go for a classic French style with red lips and all black, or channel your inner Alaïa by pairing your beret with suede or sky blue pieces.
‘Tis the season of everything off-the-shoulder. Clavicle bones are all the rage, and whether you’re choosing a dress, blouse or jumpsuit that shows off your shoulders, you can make sure to thank Alaïa for helping inspire the trend. At his 1991 runway show, there were shoulder-exposing dresses and sets galore, mostly in luxurious knits with plenty of texture. It’s so ’90s, but isn’t that the point? In colors like deep amethyst, royal blue, and black, it’s obvious how this show set the aesthetic for the early 90s.
Nowadays, the off-the-shoulder treatment is done in every style imaginable. Our favorite has the be the knit, Clueless-style version of the top or a looser, linen version that just screams summer.
Cheetah girls, cheetah sisters
Many prints come and go (hello chevron and galaxy print), but cheetah is forever. One of the best cheetah moments in herstory, however, has to be at this show. During the latter half of his presentation, Alaïa sent out look after look of cheetah print. There were coats and ’50s style bustier dresses, there were off-the-shoulder numbers and bodysuits — all fashioned entirely from the print. And when paired with vintage style hats and sunglasses, the looks feel kissed by kitsch in all the right ways, inspiring us to get our favorite cheetah print pieces out of our closet.
You can still go full cheetah, or incorporate it into your wardrobe bit by bit. Choose a cheetah printed crop top, bodysuit, or skirt to try the trend gradually, or pick a piece of outerwear for a more “in your face” look.
Butterfly in the sky
Although less timeless, another one of the prints that Alaïa helped to popularize in this show was the kaleidoscope and butterfly print. For some reason, butterflies were the coolest insect of the ’90s, finding their way onto clothing and berets for all to wear. The designer’s version felt less childish while still playful; totally retro and bright without feeling too juvenile. Although this print specifically wasn’t all over the runway this season, retro and mod prints were everywhere, as were patches and ’70s influences. Alaïa’s version of the print was seen adorning jumpsuits, pencil skirts, and cardigans alike.
You can see this print done in new ways, whether it’s through ’70s style silhouettes or micro mini prints that look almost like camouflage. The romantic meets surreal with this print, urging us to grow and transform like the butterflies we wear.
Although most looks in the show were seductive in their own right, it was the caged pieces toward the end of the presentation that were truly ahead of their time. The designer sent out plastic and metal netted pieces, like a cage dress and skirt worn with a bustier. The bondage inspired pieces were paired with loud graphics and accented with textured sleeves and turtlenecks, or worn in a sexier style with corset belts and elbow length gloves.
Thanks to designers like Balmain and Chromat, wearing the modern day cage dress is no biggie. Wear your favorite style over a bodysuit, leggings and bustier, or hot pants. If you’re feeling like channeling your inner Alaïa, simply grab some gloves and a beret, and you’ll be set.
It’s been 26 years since this show, but we still love it. Long live Alaïa!