PARIS — Maison Alaïa, one of the industry’s most discreet brands, is planting its flag in the digital sphere with the launch today of its first online store in partnership with Yoox Net-a-porter Group.
The introduction of Maison-Alaia.com, a project started with the house’s namesake founder, who died unexpectedly in late 2017, marks an important milestone in the history of the cult brand and reflects parent company Compagnie Financière Richemont’s commitment to investing in its future. Richemont also owns YNAP.
Communications executive Annika McVeigh has just joined Maison Alaïa as director of communications following a seven-year stint as director of communications at Celine, amid a flurry of exhibitions dedicated to Alaïa’s exacting, sculptural designs. That includes a soon-to-wrap retrospective at London’s Design Museum, which the designer, who died of heart failure, helped curate.
Maison Alaïa operates two brick-and-mortar flagships: a three-story boutique opened on Paris’ Rue de Marignan in 2013 and a store on London’s New Bond Street, whose ribbon was cut in April by longtime Alaïa friend and muse Naomi Campbell.
Net-a-porter became the brand’s first online retail partner in 2017. The new digital flagship falls under YNAP’s Online Flagship Stores division, helmed by Francesca Tranquilli, through a five-year partnership.
The wall-less digital store will feature the house’s largest offering, including current season ready-to-wear, footwear and accessories as well as the “Les Intemporels” classic pieces central to Alaïa’s sense of timeless beauty, the house said.
Exclusive to the online store, which will serve customers in more than 100 markets globally, will be the new Edition collection, a series of signature pieces selected from the archives. Each piece will be made to the exact specifications and rigorous construction specified by Alaïa himself, using the original fabrics — subject to availability — or new materials inspired by them. Each garment will carry a label stating the year the design was first shown.
A second label, Editions Limitées, will also be showcased on the site. Both newly designed and reedited from the archive, no more than 30 to 60 editions of each piece will ever be produced. Created to demi-couture standards, the capsule will be available to purchase by appointment only in the Maison Alaïa ateliers in Paris, “celebrating the direct and intimate relationship the house has always been known for,” it said.
Further capsule collections will be introduced over time, with the site offering multiple currencies, payment options and languages, including Japanese, Italian, French and English. Built using the latest user-friendly design techniques, Maison-Alaïa.com is adaptive with a dedicated mobile site, with features such as one-page checkout and express delivery to more than 100 countries around the world.
Launched in 2006, with Marni as its first client, YNAP’s Online Flagship Stores division, which creates platforms for brands combining the online, in-store and mobile worlds, today works with more than 30 luxury brands including Valentino, Moncler, Armani, Balmain and seven Kering-owned labels.
YNAP is positioned as the world’s largest provider of e-commerce services to luxury brands in terms of scale, with a client base of more than 3 million high-spending customers, over 840 million visits worldwide and consolidated net revenues of 2.1 billion euros in 2017.
As Maison Alaïa transitions into a foundation dedicated to preserving Alaïa’s oeuvre, meanwhile, the collections are being developed by a studio team, which moved into a new location after the designer’s death and will continue to work from his archives, Italian retailer Carla Sozzani, Alaïa’s constant sidekick, said in a recent interview with WWD.
While little is known about the inner workings of the studio, Alaïa’s collaborators included studio director Caroline Fabre Bazin and Japan-born Hideki Seo, his first assistant.
Sozzani told WWD no official successor would be named. “No star designer — nobody can be Alaïa,” she stated firmly. “It was not a seasonal collection, and he was not following trends — he was making them — so there are so many treasures in this house for generations to come to work from Azzedine’s work,” Sozzani explained. “It’s timeless and there is such a strong image, a strong silhouette — you immediately say, ‘This is Alaïa.’ You don’t need to change that. Nobody should touch that. It’s untouchable.”