Stepping onto the Rue de Moussy with a debut collection honoring the legacy of Azzedine Ala?a was a statement which radiated both respect and confidence from Pieter Mulier. In many ways, stars had aligned for the Belgian creative director, the first to have been trusted with the keys to the house Since the much-mourned passing of Ala?a in 2017.
It was partly the location. Redolent of the culture revered by insiders—it’s the street on which Ala?a opened his first boutique, and is home now to the Azzedine Ala?a Foundation. It was partly the anticipatory atmosphere of goodwill emanating from those in attendance who’ve known every stitch and curve of the maestro’s work since the 1980s.
And in large part Mulier’s arrival came with the serendipitous energy of timing: the fact that right now, there could hardly be anything more relevant, more new, to young women than the post-pandemic surge in desire for ‘body-conscious’ dressing. The term itself was coined to describe the visceral uniqueness of Alaia’s work almost 40 years ago. “For me, it’s about how to explain the codes [Ala?a invented] to a new generation,” said Mulier. All those codes were embodied in the sinuous and slinky dresses, the flippy black skirts, the draped hoods, the flowing silk capes, the black leather—everything using all the techniques of incredible knitwear, body-sculpting cut, and house fabrics. “I wanted to make it democratic again,” is the way Mulier put it, pointing out the cross-references with, say, the leggings “that everyone wears today” or, no doubt, hoodies.
But in Ala?a-world, these things are transformed into objects of the utmost sophistication: leggings that are a hybrid of cycling shorts and stockings, head-drapes that become almost goddess-like. “I wanted it to be the opposite of sportswear,” said Mulier emphatically. It’s creating fashion with an ultra-glamour that also has “ease” that he finds interesting. “They don’t like the word ‘sexual’ here, but I do. Because to me, this is the only house in the world which is sexual without being vulgar. It’s actually about pure beauty, and working on the body, which I have never seen anywhere else.”
Mulier left his last job at Calvin Klein in 2018, in the aftermath of the departure of Raf Simons, and he said he spent a long time feeling demoralized by the industry. “I thought I wouldn’t do fashion any more. After New York, I really thought it was finished for me,” he said, frankly. “I didn’t want to do sneakers, sportswear, all of that.” Though he didn’t have a public profile, Mulier was well known as a highly experienced professional who’d been Simons’s right hand in womenswear at Christian Dior and Jil Sander before that. Several companies came courting, but he was in no frame of mind to pitch his fortunes in with big business again. “I took a long break. I really wanted something small. Something human-scale.”