Maison Alaia to make long-awaited runway return under new designer Pieter Mulier

The show will take place the day before Paris Couture Week opens, exactly four years after the label's last presentation

Belgium designer Pieter Mulier will present his first collection as the new head of the label Alaia. Courtesy Pieter Mulier 
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Fabled fashion house Alaia, launched by Tunisian designer Azzedine Alaia, is set to make its return to the runway, exactly four years after its last show.

Now headed by Belgian designer Pieter Mulier, who made his name working alongside Raf Simons at Jil Sander, Dior and Calvin Klein, the label will make its return to the Paris runway on July 4.

Azzedine Alaia. Photo by Peter Lindbergh

Happening in front of a live audience, it marks the start of the return of physical fashion shows, which were brought to a worldwide halt in February 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

The Alaia presentation will also take place the day before the start of Paris Couture Week, one of the most significant weeks in the fashion calendar, during which the world's press and influential figures descend on the French capital, guaranteeing maximum exposure for the label's comeback.

It will also be Mulier's debut for the label since taking over in February, with the designer expected to present a mix of couture and ready-to-wear. It's an unwritten rule in fashion that these two very different spheres are never combined, but Mulier's merry disregard for conformity fits perfectly with his predecessor Azzedine Alaia's rebellious streak. This was best seen in his famous refusal to follow the runway calendar, instead simply showing his collections whenever he felt they were ready.

Most importantly, the date marks exactly four years since the last fashion show by both the brand and the founder in 2017. The designer died in November 2017, aged 77. In a statement announcing the show, the brand explained that the date thus carried special meaning.

The show will offer the first new designs to emerge from the brand since Alaia's death. Until now, the label has instead been concentrating on reissuing archival pieces.

Lady Gaga in a custom-made Azzedine Alaia gown at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, February 2015. Jordan Strauss, AP

The return of Alaia kicks off what promises to be a momentous Couture Week, in which two other major names will return.

Firstly, Jean Paul Gaultier Couture will return under guest designer Chitose Abe (of Sacai fame), in a series that hands the reins to different creatives. Gaultier himself retired from the runway in January 2020.

Secondly, there is the welcome return of Balenciaga, which will present its first couture collection since 1968, the year founder Cristobal Balenciaga closed all of his ateliers. The house is now under the direction of Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia, who has turned its ready-to-wear division into a fashion must-have.

While all three houses remain tight-lipped about what audiences can expect, it's safe to say the return of the storied trio seems a fitting way to welcome fashion back with a bang after the pandemic-induced pause.