Stephanie Seymour and her daughter Lily Brant on the enduring appeal of Alaïa
From exclusive dresses and sharp tailored jackets to a very special wedding look, we delve into the closets of supermodel STEPHANIE SEYMOUR and her daughter LILY BRANT to talk about their Alaïa collections and love for the brand – and the man himself
When did you first meet designer Azzedine Alaïa?
Stephanie Seymour: It was 1984, and I was in a competition for young models called The Look of the Year. Azzedine Alaïa and Kenzo did the dresses for the finalists. I really liked Azzedine straight away; I felt there was something special about him, and for some reason he felt the same way about me. Back then, I wasn’t a very good runway model, but he gave me a job anyway – that was my start in the industry. My first show of his, I was so nervous I walked out talking to myself the whole time and looking down at my hands. It was so comedic that Azzedine used to play it back on tape for me. He had the funniest sense of humor. It developed into a lifelong friendship. He met my daughter, Lily, when she was born, in 2005.
Lily Brant: My fondest memories of Azzedine are whenever I would visit him in Paris. He was like an uncle to me and my siblings. He would always find me new outfits to wear, and I loved having dinners with him; he was always so kind and welcoming.
SS: Azzedine loved Lily, and she loved him. When she was born, he had a really beautiful quilt made for her in China, where he had just visited. She still has it today.
When Lily was born, Azzedine sent me two dresses – one was black and one was white, both exactly the same. They were a gift for me and my daughter”Stephanie Seymour
What does the brand mean to you?
SS: When I wear Alaïa, I feel like myself. That’s really important as our clothes do define us in a sense, because we do choose them. And when you find something that you feel like yourself in, you wear it, like a uniform – Azzedine was that kind of man who really believed in the uniform. And then, of course, there’s the historical importance; his absolute brilliance. I personally think Azzedine was the greatest designer ever. He really understood what was stylish and what worked for women, and not just women with good figures, but women with all types of figures. Four days a week, every week, I wear Alaïa.
LB: I view Alaïa as a form of art. Each piece is so beautiful and unique. Although I’m too young to remember my mom in all the amazing pieces, I enjoy looking at the pictures.
What started your Alaïa collection?
LB: Growing up, I always admired my mother when she was dressed up in Alaïa. I would marvel and dream of the day I would have my own collection; it started at an early age with hand-me-down pieces from my mother’s expansive collection. I love the two-piece sets that my mother owns, and the long, beautiful dresses. My favorite piece from my own collection is a white jacket I have that Azzedine personally gifted me during one of my many visits to his home in Paris.
SS: When Lily was born, Azzedine sent me two dresses – one was black and one was white, both exactly the same. They were a gift for me and my daughter. I started collecting couture clothing as a hobby early in my career. Alaïa would gift me lots of things – really special pieces that he only made one or two of, because he knew I would take care of them. Only about half of them I have ever worn. I feel really lucky to have these pieces. I have a lot of favorites – this amazing wool coat dress is one of them; down the back is an entire crocodile dipped in black, so everything is monochromatic. I have special storage for them; I store them at a certain temperature in acid-free tissue, with little pictures outside of the drawers documenting what’s inside. Sometimes I like to look at the pictures, as some of the dresses don’t fit me anymore.
I never knew what my [wedding] dress was going to look like until maybe 24 hours before the ceremony. [Azzedine and I] stayed up all night together the night before. He then dressed Naomi [Campbell], my maid of honor, in all black, as he thought that would be beautiful”Stephanie Seymour
Do you ever swap pieces?
SS: I let Lily wear some of my older Alaïa dresses that are a bit small for me; dresses from when I was 15 or 16 – the same age as she is now. I still have all those early pieces. We go shopping together a lot, and I often buy her new pieces from Alaïa, but quite often before she goes shopping on her own, I encourage her to look through my closet first. There is so much to choose from, and I have weeded it down to the best things that a woman could possibly wear.
Are there any memorable moments in your life for which you have worn Alaïa?
LB: I’ve worn Alaïa for every special moment, from gallery openings to birthdays and everything in between. It’s just so elegant.
SS: My wedding. Originally, I had bought a vintage couture gown, and told Azzedine about it; he said no, that it was bad luck, and that he was going to make my dress instead. He asked me what color I wanted, and I said white. And that was it; I never knew what my dress was going to look like until maybe 24 hours before the ceremony. We stayed up all night together the night before. The dress stemmed from a Vionnet one that Azzedine was inspired by, with an abstract pattern across the body, but really it was the dress that he wanted me to wear; a dress that he himself wanted to make. He then dressed Naomi [Campbell], my maid of honor, in all black, as he thought that would be beautiful. He came to the wedding and he gave me away. It was the most special time.