Starz in My Eyes: Azzedine Alaïa Shoes

I’ve often said the world of fashion is more and more ruled by rules which have nothing to do with beauty or creativity, financial rules which have one goal only: selling as many clothes and accessories of a certain brand as possible. Isn’t it the primary goal of fashion nowadays? If this is not the reason, if money is not the engine which makes everything work, can someone please explain why a designer has to produce at least four collections a year (pre-fall and resort have now become part of the annual production of a clothing brand, along with the more traditional spring/summer and fall/winter)? You may say that this is the world of fashion, take it or leave, or that if you can’t stand the heat, you’d better go out of the kitchen (and we have many examples of this – from Christophe Decarnin to Luella Bartley), but I guess there’s something more complicated, and slightly inhuman in this race for the highest gain. Creativity is certainly one of the victims, and no one can deny it: collections all look more or less the same, it’s more and more difficult to grasp real signs of pure genius, but this doesn’t mean that geniuses don’t exist anymore. Take Azzedine Alaïa, the Tunisian-born designer who started his career in the late 1950, working for Christian Dior and Guy Laroche, and later opened his own atelier in Paris. He’s one of the symbols of the 1980s fashion (take a look at my Tumblr to see some pictures of that period), but he hasn’t followed the road that all the other designers have followed. After the death of his sister, he stayed away from the scenes for a long time; now he’s pretty popular again but his approach to fashion – his independence, his refusal to become part of the system, though being part of it – should be greatly respected.

Owning one of his amazing creations is one of my fashion dreams, but what I’m really longing for is a pair of his shoes. I can’t explain exactly what makes them so appealing to me – maybe the shapes, the leather combinations, the details, their sexy and exotic vibe. In any case I know wearing a pair of Alaïa shoes would be a dream come true. Many celebrities feel the same, but they are much luckier than me and are able to sport fabulous shoes. Let’s go through some of their closets!

Let’s start with Naomi Campbell, who often wears Alaïa on the red carpet. She was only 15 when she met the Tunisian designer in Paris: he gave her a room in his house, and spoke on the phone with Naomi’s mother (who could speak French, while the model didn’t) to assure her the girl was ok. She’s always been a muse for him and, probably, the best testimonial ever for the brand. When wearing Alaïa dresses, Naomi always pairs them with shoes of the same brand (I love this consistency on the red carpet): in the picture above, shot in 2009, she wore a white dress (the skirt is a masterpiece) with strappy embroidered sandals (the embroideries have a handmade quality).

In 2007, when she was among the guests of the Costume Institute Gala, she wore a dress by Alaïa and matching patent booties [1]. A similar shoe style – the peep-toe version – was seen on Rebecca Romijn some years later. I love both versions because the cut-outs on the upper sole are so unique, not to mention the adorable pointed scalloped border.

This is surely one of the most impressive and iconic styles by Alaïa – the infamous knee-high gladiator boots with stiletto heels. They’re incredibly sexy (I love the side buckles and the cut-out effect), yet they’re not so easy to pull off. Naomi had no problems in looking amazing with them on (she sported an Alaïa dress and corset belt, too), while the effect of the same boots on Ashley Olsen is not as good, even if I like the rest of her outfit.

Ashley is a big fan of Alaïa shoes, and she showed her loyalty to the brand especially in 2007, when she wore many shoes by the designer. The patent 3-strap sandals she wore in the picture above are just perfect – the last strap, the one around the knee, adds an incredibly sensual touch. Carmen Electra wore the same style, with 2 straps, and you can see the effect is a little bit muted in comparison with the 3-strap style.

Ashley also owns a nice pair of perforated sandals, with thick heels and – again – three straps. The best details here are the perforation (not cut-out!) and the t-strap effect between the second and the third straps. Jennifer Lopez wore the same shoes, pairing them with an emerald green evening dress by Temperley London.

Ashley and her twin sister, Mary-Kate, often swap accessories and clothes and they share the same passion for some designers. For this reason, it’s no wonder that Mary-Kate owns her collection of Alaïa shoes; among the most noteworthy styles, I love the Whips gladiator sandals, a nice cross-over between gladiator sandals and boots, with cut-outs on the upper sole.

Another celebrity who surely loves Alaïa shoes is Jennifer Aniston. The beige strappy sandals on the left have been her trademark shoes for a long time and I can’t blame her: their simplicity is what makes them perfect [2]. In the pic above, she wore them with a Chanel Haute Couture outfit at the GLAAD Awards in 2007. She also owns a lovely pair of laser-cut scalloped sandals, which she wore with a little black dress at the Tonight Show with Jay Leno in February 2009.

Rachel Bilson cannot be considered an Alaïa fan, but she has probably just jumped on the bandwagon, since he’s become so popular in the United States. She wore a nice pair of cut-out wedges on September 2010, pairing them with Adriano Goldschmied Pixie denim shorts, a striped sweater and a Roady bag by Yves Saint Laurent.

Kate Beckinsale wore gorgeous Alaïa cut-out sandals to go shopping with her husband and daughter in April 2009. I couldn’t wear these sandals to go shopping but I guess being comfortable is not a priority for celebrities.

Leighton Meester, one of the protagonists of Gossip Girl, loves Alaïa boots: she wore a cute pair of peep-toe boots with zip-trimmed cut-outs in 2009 on the set of the tv series and paired them with a Fendi Peekaboo bag, a Stephen Sprouse for Louis Vuitton leopard scarf, skinny jeans and a short coat. She wore a dramatic pair of over-the-knee boots on December 2010, when she attended the re-opening of the Dior boutique in New York.

Nicole Richie has always been one of the best-dressed celebrities in my personal list: maybe she’s not elegant in the traditional sense, but she’s got a very personal style, which I love. She loves a specific style of Alaïa shoes – nice flat sandals with drop details: she has worn them many times since 2007 or even earlier. She has recently been spotted wearing another creation by the Tunisian designer – front cut-out booties. I wish she didn’t wear them with black opaques, because the beautiful cut-out work is not emphasized.

Nicky Hilton and Ashlee Simpson recently wore the same style of Alaïa sandals, an impressive model indeed, featuring open toe, stiletto heels, front lacing and a gorgeous cut-out work on the sides. I prefer Nicky’s outfit, it’s more refined than Ashlee’s, though very simple – a black mini-skirt and sweater, a white t-shirt and a gorgeous Hermès Kelly bag.

When it comes to Ashlee’s sister, Jessica, we’re stepping into a special territory. She’s one of the first American pop singers to wear Alaïa shoes, she owns an impressive collection, so the styles above are just some of those she keeps in her closet. She wore those impressive strappy sandals with lucite heels while out in Calabasas in 2005, the cute bow denim wedges in Las Vegas in 2008 and the gorgeous cage booties in New York in 2008, again. I’m not a fan of her style, but I must give her credit because she’s got a very good eye for accessories.

Miley Cyrus has also been spotted wearing Alaïa shoes: she owns a beautiful pair of cut-out open-toe booties, which she wore several times. The picture above was taken in 2010 in New York, while she was arriving at the Late Show with David Letterman. She wore these booties with a very casual and relaxed outfit; she also wore a See by Chloè bowler hat, very cute.

One of the most famous styles of Alaïa shoes is the gladiator buckled sandal. Anna Dello Russo, Katie Holmes and Miley Cyrus wore the high-heeled version in black or in natural leather (my favourite). You may not agree with me, but I think Holmes’ outfit is the best among the three: I love her style circa 2008 (do you remember she started the boyfriend jeans trend), because it was so fresh and chic, with basic pieces paired to super-expensive accessories (in this case, she was carrying a Hermès Depeches PM briefcase).

Uma Thurman wore the flat version instead, pairing the sandals with black capri pants, a comfortable striped t-shirt and sweater and a beautiful Nina Ricci Ondine bag. I’m a fan of flat sandals, but these are not even comparable to the high-heel version, which is so much meaningful and sexy.

Katie Holmes is another celebrity who loves Alaïa creations. I’m not referring to shoes only, because she’s often worn his dresses, too. In February 2009 she was in New York filming The Extra Man: she was spotted on the set wearing a classic Burberry trench coat, skinny jeans and a cute pair of Alaïa flats in brown (see the adorable scalloped trim). In 2010, while attending an event in Las Vegas, she wore a royal blue shift dress and Alaïa strappy sandals; in the same year, she attended the premiere of Knight and Day by James Mangold (starring her husband, Tom Cruise, and Cameron Diaz) in Seville, wearing an Alaïa total look – a gorgeous knitted dress and stunning bronze sandals (the one seen on Katie don’t have a platform, though).

Rihanna wore several Alaïa shoes in the summer 2009, which she spent in New York and in Europe. In the picture above, she wore a cute Ever dress and one of the most beautiful sandals I’ve ever seen, python sandals with bells on the ankle straps, exotic!

RiRi also wore a dramatic pair of lace-up, cut-out boots in the same summer, but she is not the only one who owns this style, because – and now things are getting “dangerous” – the queen of Alaïa shoes owns it too. I’m referring to the one and only Lindsay Lohan! She may be troubled, but she still has a special place in my heart: there’s something about her – often tragic – style which is extremely attractive to me. I’m not only talking of expensive accessories, which she loves, but of the general vibe that her outfits have, a certain carelessness which makes her look like a rock ‘n roll star most of the times. I’ve made a selection of the Alaïa shoes she has in her closet, but I can assure you there are many more.

She wore these raffia ankle-strap sandals in 2009, the burgundy cut-out sandals in the same year and the impressive eyelet ankle boots while in Paris in 2010. The last style is my favourite: the booties are embellished by metal grommets, applied all over the shoes.

She also owns cut-out wedges with ankle straps (she wore them during a holiday in St Barth in 2010), perforated strappy wedges, the wedge version of the strappy sandals seen on Jennifer Lopez and Ashley Olsen (she wore them in 2009) and the impressive studded mary-janes which she wore in 2010 in London. Words fail me when it comes to talk about the studded mary-janes, because they are kind of a legendary style in my personal list (something similar to the Manolo Blahnik Campari mary-janes Carrie Bradshaw spotted in the closet room at Vogue).

Now, just to stay in this dream-like realm for a while, let’s admire another pair of Alaïa sandals which I love love love. Please forgive my expression, but I think these sandals are “sex on heels”: they’re barely there (no upper sole, replaced by laces, but the sides are made of lace), they put the feet on display and are incredibly sensual. They were spotted on Thandie Newton (who was wearing a Chanel outfit) at the Costume Institute Gala in New York in 2008.

The boot counterpart of the amazing sandals seen on Thandie Newton are these ones, made of suede, seen on Hilary Duff. What I find incredibly sexy in these boots is the shape of the heel (a bit chunky, not so high) and the cut-out work. I’ve never owned a pair of Alaïa shoes, and probably never will, but if I could choose, I would buy these, because I would be able to actually walk in them!

What about the relation you have with Alaïa shoes? Love them or hate them? Do you have a particular style that you like?

[1] Mary-Kate Olsen owns the same shoes.

[2] Jessica Simpson owns the same shoes.



    1. Don’t we dream the same dream? Being a celebrity and having the chance to wear fabulous clothes and accessories *____*

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