80s "it" designer Azzedine Alaia, he of the skintight superdresses typically seen on the decade's supermodels, is justifiably annoyed not to be included in the Met Costume Institute's recent exhibit, "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion". Rather than actually asking the designer directly to participate, the curator, Harold Koda, essentially employed a gradeschool classroom note-passing strategy...with similar results. "A mutual friend was having dinner with him in Paris...and I said, ‘Will you tentatively ask him whether or not he would be comfortable with this?’," explains Koda. "When she came back, she said he is really not comfortable, so we never pursued approaching the supermodels for their dresses.”
According, to Cathy Horyn of The New York Times, Alaia was not "fully informed by the Met about the subject of the show, nor was he invited to attend the opening." And Koda is now hiding behind some weird concern about Alaia being "comfortable" seeing his work in the show. Um...hello, this is a Met exhibit, who wouldn't be comfortable/ecstatic/thrilled/pick-your-elation?! (Museum of Sex, okay. The Costume Institute? Please). "Maybe it was oversensitivity on my part in broaching it informally rather than with a formal letter," he continues. "Nobody is to blame."
Yes they are, Harold: you.
Excluding a designer so closely aligned with the careers of Naomi Campbell, Stephanie Seymour, and Linda Evangelista for some oddball concern over "comfort" reeks of a sleight of hand to distract from the real reason, which the designer himself already addressed: Anna Wintour. According to WWD, he recently criticized her for snubbing his work for the last 15 years, noting that "she behaves like a dictator and everyone is terrified of her." Interestingly, American designer Chado Ralph Rucci has been subject to the same shameful treatment, even though he's the sole homegrown talent invited to show in the Haute Couture under his own name.
Which obviously begs the question, why?
No doubt, the Fashion World version of royal patronage. In the case of Rucci, Wintour is good friends with Oscar de la Renta, who apparently views Rucci as his direct competition, so she let her friendship keep Rucci out of American Vogue. Where Koda is concerned, the Costume Institute relies heavily on her support for their exhibits and events, so once again, personal concerns appear to have trumped professional standards.
The fact that insiders are doing their best to make Alaia look the fool in this case brings to mind the scene in "Men in Black" where Will Smith's character is stunned to find out how his new partner locates aliens causing trouble: through the cheesy supermarket tabloids everyone (else) laughs at. "These are the hot sheets?" he marvels, to which Agent K, replies: "Best investigative reporting on the planet. But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes."
- Lesley Scott
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