In 2017, the fashion industry lost a legend: the master couturier Azzedine Alaïa, who died in Paris at age 82. And while the house hasn’t fully faded from relevance in the years since—thanks in no small part to Naomi Campbell, who still regularly posts about the designer she’s long called “Papa”—it now seems poised to return to the forefront. On Friday, Alaïa announced that starting with the spring 2022 season, the role of creative director will pass on to Pieter Mulier, who’s been Raf Simons’s righthand man for more than 15 years.
In retrospect, it was only a matter of time before Mulier stepped out on his own. Last year, Miuccia Prada replaced him as Simons’s partner in crime when he joined her as co-creative director at Prada. (“Strange not to be on your side but will b biggest fan!,” Mulier captioned a congratulatory Instagram when the news broke.) Even so, Mulier was due for a promotion; he was most recently global creative director of Calvin Klein.
Mulier, like Simons, was born in Belgium and didn’t study fashion. But his architectural training didn’t stop him from becoming head designer of Simons’s eponymous label in 2003, after just a year of interning. He oversaw the Raf Simons menswear collections until 2010, during which time he also joined Simons at Jil Sander. When Simons left for Christian Dior in 2012, he took Mulier with him, as design director—hence why you may recognize him from the 2015 documentary Dior and I, which chronicled the two-month rush to create their first couture collection. They then both moved to New York, for Calvin Klein, and back to Antwerp in 2018.
Alaïa will be quite the change of pace for Mulier. Whereas Simons has long shied from mainstream names—he’s so far only picked new faces to be Prada models—Mr. Alaïa had a whole Alaïa family full of supermodels. And while Mulier had embraced more gender neutral design in his work with Simons, Alaïa remains “defined by a powerful vision of femininity and sensuality,” as the house put it in a press release. Of course, that might look different under Mulier. It should also be interesting to watch if the house returns to the more standard fashion calendar that Mr. Alaïa famously ignored. “His appointment marks the opening of an important new chapter for our Maison,” CEO Myriam Serrano said, “as we jointly seek to carry the foundational values and distinctive style of Alaïa into the future.”