Alaïa’s New Bag Pays Tribute to the Warm Spirit of Its Founder

Introducing Le Papa, named after Azzedine Alaïa

alaia le papa bag in croc

Since Pieter Mulier joined Alaïa as creative director in 2021, he has tenderly and masterfully evolved founder Azzedine Alaïa’s vision of feminine power. But it isn’t simply the work ethic and exacting cuts of Maison Alaïa that Mulier is carrying forward. It is also the warmth of the man behind those clothes, whose spirit created a singular sense of intimacy within his Paris atelier in the Marais. Mr. Alaïa hosted languorous lunches almost daily in his kitchen and regularly welcomed designers, editors, and models. His dear friend Naomi Campbell, and then many others after, even called him “Papa.”

Today, Maison Alaïa launches a new handbag, Le Papa, named for that term of endearment used by the women who embodied his work. The strong but understated shape speaks of the maison’s signature feeling of precise finesse, with its clean, slanted geometry taking its lines from the shape of the letter A. Like all of Alaïa’s creations, its architecture reflects a sublime practicality, looking as perfect slung over the shoulder of a suit as it does against the hipbone under a cocktail dress.

a model in a white shirt and jeans holds alaïa’s le papa, a new structured bag with a gold buckle
Courtesy of Alaïa

The story of Campbell’s relationship with Mr. Alaïa—her Papa—defines the sense of intimacy that Mulier is once again cultivating in the house. When Campbell was 16 and new to modeling, Alaïa invited her to stay at his house so she wouldn’t have to live in a hotel. He became a father figure to her, picking her up from nightclubs when she snuck out to party with Grace Jones and Iman. And he encouraged Elite Model Management to sign her, saying, “Listen. She is my daughter, so you have to take her on and look after her. I don’t want her to be left all on her own in New York.”

His paternal instinct extended beyond Campbell. As model Veronica Webb once said in an interview, “Myself, Naomi, Stephanie [Seymour]—he taught us how to use our forks, how to walk, how to take rejection, how to present ourselves. He treated us all like flesh-and-blood children.”

The strong but understated shape speaks of the maison’s signature feeling of precise finesse.

Mulier’s hand extends Alaïa’s reputation for sophisticated clothes for the kind of sophisticated woman Webb described. The bag, then, is a kind of token of the house’s familial discretion. It comes in three sizes and a multitude of materials and colors, from smooth and grained calfskin to zebra print, intended to be a treasure that can move with you at each moment of your day. Le Papa goes on sale today at and selected retailers.

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