When Naomi asked me to stop the plane…
On a hot afternoon of many years ago, youngme was sitting behind the desk in Azzedine Alaia’s spacious Atelier in Paris. I was choses for a three -months stage amongst five other girls, and I fought to get that place, not very well paid, I admit, but I would have killed to meet Azzedine, to be by his side… Well my job was at first to get names and telephone numbers written down, I had a very hard time with my French which was not yet perfect…My degree at the Fashion Forum School did not provide a full immersion into the language( the lessons were held in English) and my grammar skills were very weak.. Azzedine arrived each morning at 10 a.m. sharp, in his black Chinese- look uniform and velvet slippers from his home land, he was very tiny, timid, with nervous hands . His hands spoke more than his words, his gesture was very important. He moved me from the secretary-desk saying I could better serve him in his Atelier for the fitting ,before the big Models came, I could be his alive mannequin…I did that with enthusiasm, I thought I could wear those wonderful creations he kept secretly behind those doors and meet the great Top Models( all of them were scheduled to appear in his show, Linda , Naomi, Christy, Tatiana)… Such things were important for me at that time. So I was saying, that that day the whole Atelier is waiting for the arrival of Naomi, and the place is booked just for her. No other appointments. She is usually late, but we are all there ready for her. Azzedine is very nervous, he expects us to be perfect for her, she is going to be the Star of the show. The divine N, finally arrives with two hours- delay, splendid, with that mesmerizing feline allure, unique, so beautiful she does not look human…She is calm, relaxed, very polite, she speaks softly to Azzedine calling him Papa. She is asking for his help, she had a terrible fight with her boyfriend( Adam Clayton from the U2) and he is now leaving Paris for London. She doesn’t want him to leave and somehow she truly believes that Azzedine has the power to stop the plane.. She is bursting into tears now. Azzedine panics, his first assistant Eric a young spoiled garcon from the South, yells at me to run to the phone and reach Air France and do come up with something to resolve the problem. I frankly do not think I am Wonderwoman, but I am willing to try, of course, my life is depending on that.
After ten eternal ,never ending minutes waiting on the phone, finally the desk operator at Air France check- in comes to the phone. I try to explain with my poor French that I have Naomi sitting next to me ( she is now really beside me sobbing) and she is a very famous person, and she would like to speak with Mr. Clayton, a matter of life and death…I sound particularly ridiculous…he, the operator, with his preposterous snob accent, tells me “ Mais Mademoiselle, don’t you think that if this girl is very famous she could get a private plane and reach her boyfriend in London later?…and frankly I don’t give a damned about their argue, I am working here, do not waste my precious time” and he hangs up on me. Well yes, he might be right…how can you explain to a Goddess that certain things are not possible, even if you are Naomi ? How can I survive this? Eric comes to help, telling her that the flight had already left but we had the message delivered to Adam…everything was going to be all right… and then he says” Shall we proceed with the fitting, my dear? It is so very late and Azzedine has to show you some very beautiful dresses specially conceived for you…” Deal. Done. She stand up, dries her tears and disappears behind those secret doors. Well my life is spared, for now. Eric glimpses at me saying “ You see,Cherie, they are so easy to fool around, those Stars”… When she comes out half an hour later, shadows on she seems relieved. She looks like a mourning Madonna, so perfect and beautiful in her personal drama. Azzedine is thrilled “ She is going to be the Star of the show, everything was perfect!”.
She comes over to me and gently asks me to call her a cab. She says “Thank you,I really appreciated your help, you have been so kind” Well dear Naomi, I was really glad to help, I was indeed fighting for survival there, you will never know ( I could you?) how terrible my life was going to be in few seconds.. I did not see myself thrown out of the Atelier with dishonor and disgrace for not having helped the Divine, for not being able to stop that plane. So I did my very best. That evening at supper I was thinking that myself and Naomi were not very different. Except for her perfect sculpted body, except for her feline movements, except for the money, the fame, the splendid career, she was a simple girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her (quote from Notting Hill)… Like me, she was moved from love. Well that thought kept me company during the night, it did not make me feel alone.
I stayed with Azzedine three months as contract said, I hope I stayed also for my skills. Certainly Naomi’s gentle words for me, made a very big impression on Azzedine, after that afternoon he finally started to “notice” me around. I had a name, I was someone, a person. He finally came to like me, of this I am certain, I spent long hours with him trying on those marvelous creations, looking at the incredible hand work on his robes, which became one by one with his touch pure perfection. Azzedine loved Women, he celebrated their feminine shapes like no one was capable to do. An exhibition in Paris is celebrating his talent these days, I recognized some of the robes I tried for him in 1993, great memories, even greater now that we have no longer Azzedine with us. The day I left he said goodbye wishing me good luck for my future. He said he was very satisfied with me, he was going to write a great resume I could use for my next interviews (…few months later I showed it to Karl Lagerfeld’s assistant and it helped me to get the job at Chanel’s).. He said to go down to the basement and choose three dresses for his archives. He was offering me those in addiction of the poor stage wage, he thought I deserved more.
Those three creations shared the secrets of my wardrobe for many years to come. I worshipped them. I tried one few days ago and with surprise the petite robe noire still fits me,( you see me wearing it in the picture), talking of perfection…
And Naomi? Six months later I was assisting at the défilé of Jean Paul Gaulthier. He had , that Genius, the brilliant idea to have the runway on the public street, not indoors .No invitations needed. Half Paris was there. Again all the Top Models were gathered to défilé for him. There was a big black limo waiting by the sidewalk, and I was thrilled to see Naomi running outside after the show and disappearing inside of it. Adam was there to pick her up. Won’t you call that the perfect happy ending? I would.