French fashion designer working in London
Born: Casablanca, Morocco, 1956. Education: Studied at London College of Fashion, 1972-73; completed education at St. Martin's School of Art, London. Career: Worked for dress company in London's East End, 1972; began own business, 1975 (closed after one year; opened again, 1977); joined London Design Collections, 1978; judge, J&B Rare Designers Award, South Africa, 1997. Address: 50 Knightsbridge, London SW1, England.
"How the Glamour Boys Are You," in Cosmopolitan (London), December 1987.
Dutt, Robin, "Jacques Azagury," in Clothes Show (London), April/May 1990.
Rodgers, Toni, "Double Vision," in Elle (London), March 1991.
"Relative Values," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 29August 1993.
Watson, Ines, "Designs for High Living," in Dispatch, 12 December 1997.
Jacques Azagury is a designer of spectacular eveningwear for such high-profile clients as the Duchess of Kent, Joan Collins, Madonna, Emma Thompson, Elizabeth Taylor, Demi Moore, and Britain' First Lady, Cherie Blair. Azagury's reputation was enhanced when the late Diana, Princess of Wales, began to favor his designs. His glamorous style was perhaps best epitomized by the princess in the summer of 1994 when she walked out of the Ritz Hotel in London, to be met by the glare of the awaiting paparazzi, in a stunning Azagury black, graphite, and bugle bead sheath with sensuous side split.
Glamor and exoticism have always been part of the Azagury mystique. Born in Casablanca in 1956, he describes this environment as being exactly like a Hollywood film set. The precedent set by Ingrid Bergman in the film Casablanca or Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not established a culture that demanded a fabulously chic approach to dress. This was the ideal breeding ground for a fledgling fashion designer, and Azagury often attributes his sources of inspiration to a collection of photographs of his mother and her friends, lunching and partying in chic Casablancan style.
The Azagury family moved to London in the early 1960s so the children could benefit from an English education. His enthusiasm for fashion and style eventually led Jacques to study the subject at St. Martin's College of Art in London, which he entered at the young age of 13; after graduating, he quickly established his own label. Browns in London was one of the first high-fashion retail outlets to place an order. Joan Burstein, the owner of the boutique, recognized that the Azagury signature had an individual sophistication and luxury that easily complemented the slick appeal of her other labels, such as Claude Montana or Thierry Mugler.
Azagury began his own retail operation in London's Knightsbridge. As well as specializing in exclusive cocktail and special occasion wear for private clients, he also sells pieces to other fashion stores and top couture retailers throughout the UK. The operation is as chic as any Parisian couture salon and was complemented by Azagury's sister, Elizabeth, and her exclusive floristry business, Azagury Fleurs, which is run from the basement of the shop. His brother's shoe design label, Joseph Azagury, is run from premises nearby.
Azagury does not design for one particular type of woman, preferring to appeal to a huge cross-section from the ages of 13 to 60. He is adamant that what a woman does not want when purchasing eveningwear is fancy dress. Some eveningwear designers layer sequins, frills, ruching, and draping to create an overstated, unflattering fantasy, but Azagury uses sequins and frills with taste and discretion. The clothes never make major fashion statements but veer instead toward the classic and flattering. Their innovation and style come from Azagury's respect for cut and fit, and he devotes a great deal of time to getting this right.
In an article by Ines Watson ( Dispatch, 12 December 1997), Azagury commented that Mrs. Blair, one of his most visible clients, "has great presence. She's now looking better than ever, she's affectionate, loves people and is always ready and willing to take suggestions." He reserves his deepest respect for the late Princess of Wales, of whom he said, "Dressing her was the highlight of my career. She was the most undemanding client and the best model that any designer could have. She was truly a lovely person, a gorgeous woman who will never be replaced. She would often phone me after an event where she wore one of my dresses, just to thank me. There aren't many people like that."
Azagury has survived and flourished in the ever-changing world of fashion because he insists upon perfect workmanship and continues to appeal to a broad-based international clientéle. He told Watson, "I found a great need for formal eveningwear that doesn't make the woman look like a grandmother. My designs are elegant and glamorous, yet they are still young." Additionally, he says he chooses only the best fabrics and never uses synthetics.
The Azagury family are a closely linked unit. As well as Elizabeth, two other sisters, Solange and Sylvia, and their father are involved in the companies. Creatively, what links the family together and motivates it is a united quest for design perfection. Grown-up, sexy sophistication sums up Jacques Azagury's style—never extreme but exquisitely made and fitted, whether it be a short, silver sequin cocktail dress, a crossover blouse in peacock silk, or a fabulously expensive full-length evening gown. Azagury never wants to compromise his look. "I don't like to see my clothes worn with other things," he declared in a Clothes Show magazine interview. He is protective of his designer's vision and does not want his customer to make sartorial mistakes, which epitomizes his continuing pursuit of chic and glamor in special occasion dressing.
updated by Sally A.Myers