Few designers are as linked with their muses as Azzedine Alaïa. Gravitating toward powerful, elegant women like Stephanie Seymour, Iman, and Linda Evangelista, Alaïa chooses muses who are united by their ability to pull off his intricate and arresting designs. The latest model to pique the designer’s interest is newcomer Ava McAvoy, a Jacksonville, Florida, 20-something who has been working in the designer’s atelier for the past three months. Shot by Karim Sadli and styled by Joe McKenna for Alaïa’s Fall lookbook, McAvoy proves herself a formidable addition to the designer’s roster of beauties. Catching up with Style.com, she shares how Clueless taught her about fashion and how it feels to work alongside fashion legends.
What prompted you to pursue modeling?
I’m originally from Jacksonville, which is practically bordering Georgia and Southern to the core. Jacksonville is beautiful, but I have always been more of a big-city girl. It’s too quiet for me, and I’ve always been more comfortable in bigger cities such as New York. I remember making a PowerPoint presentation to convince my mom to move the family to NYC, that’s how adamant I was. It, unfortunately, didn’t happen. My mom instead moved the family to a farm. At the moment, we now have seven horses, four dogs, two cats, four chickens, and two guinea pigs. I can’t keep count, the numbers keep growing.
[Before modeling] I was doing copywriting jobs, freelance work, etc. I had no real idea of what I wanted to do and was surrounded by models. I ended up having an epiphany and deciding to give [modeling] a real shot as a career. I submitted myself to my managers at Model Partner. They showed interest but said I wasn’t ready at the time. They told me to contact them when I was, so I took some time to work seriously on myself, physically and mentally. When I went back to the U.S. for Christmas [after taking time off to travel], I met with them, and we decided to meet agencies in March. They walked me into Women in Paris, and I was signed on the spot.
What has it been like working with Azzedine Alaïa for the past few months?
Azzedine—I call him Papa—is a legend of a designer. Our relationship is quite confusing to a lot of people, as I hardly speak French and he doesn’t speak more than five words of English. Somehow, we manage to communicate with each other. He saw something in me, took me under his wing, and taught me so much about the industry in such a short period. What most people wouldn’t know is just how fun he is. Azzedine is so young at heart and is such a joker. He plays pranks on everyone—it’s hysterical. It has been an absolute honor and blast to work with him.
How familiar were you with his work before you began working with him?
I wasn’t. The only reference of Alaïa I had was literally from the movie Clueless. That’s it. I think that’s what made me so appealing to him. I didn’t treat him differently; I wasn’t in awe or anything like that. After finding out who he was, I, of course, felt like an imbecile. My excuse is that I’m from Jacksonville. We don’t have couture there! Mainstream high-end brands? Yes. These intricate, one-of-a-kind masterpieces? We just don’t.
Does starting your career working with Joe McKenna and Alaïa give you a bit of a leg up in the modeling world?
I don’t think you can really have a leg up in this industry. I think it’s based on mostly timing and luck. It was truly an honor to work with the people I’ve worked with thus far. Joe McKenna is an incredible stylist, so precise and detail-oriented. There is nobody like Alaïa; he is in a category of his own. They both excel at their crafts, and that is what has made them so successful. If anything, working with them helped mold me into being a better model, since I was working with professionals at such a high caliber. However, I could never say in all seriousness that it gives me a leg up. It just gave me a better understanding of the industry.
Where can we find you when you aren’t in the atelier with Alaïa?
I’m a reader! I love to read. My mom used to have to ground me from books, not movies or TV. It’s kind of an issue now because I have missed out on so many films as reference points and am now trying to catch up. I love to walk, so I’m exploring every city I’m in whenever I get the chance. Honestly, I’m 20, I’m learning something new daily and doing anything that makes me smile.
How does wearing Alaïa compare to your everyday wardrobe?
I think every woman should put on an Alaïa creation at least once in her life. It is an experience in itself. I made my mom get a dress when she came to visit me because there is nothing like it. He understands the female body so well and truly knows how to make it look beautiful. You can have a day where you don’t feel so hot, and the second you slip on a smidge of Alaïa, you feel like a goddess. It’s inexplicable. I literally cannot compare it to anything else I own or have ever worn, and that is what makes him so amazing. What he creates are masterpieces, and the fact I have been able to be a part of it is mind-blowing.