The powerhouse moment Tina Turner swept the Alaïa runway

Watch rare footage of the legendary performer closing Azzedine Alaïa’s 1988 fashion show

When Tina Turner scaled the Eiffel Tower in 1989, she clasped the side with one hand and smirked into the barrel of Peter Lindbergh’s camera. She looked like a superhuman – legs astride and body-bound in a high-slit Azzedine Alaïa mini dress. “We told her she could put the heels on after she had climbed the tower,” the photographer recalled decades later. “But she just replied, ‘You must be kidding.’” The relationship between Alaïa and Lindbergh was the stuff of fashion folklore, a cauldron of adrenaline and glitz and stretch silhouettes that came to a crackle when Turner stepped into the frame. Her ferocious presence – all leather and lace and short, short dresses – codified what it meant to be a modern pop star. 

Though Turner often favoured Giorgio Armani and Bob Mackie, it was Alaïa’s work that seemed to best telegraph her boundless, on-stage persona. “Tina was in Los Angeles when she brought my clothes, she didn’t even know my name when she saw them,” the designer said in a French television broadcast. “She came to Paris and called me to tell me she wanted to meet me, it was fantastic.” That same clip – taken during a 1986 fitting in Alaïa’s Parisian atelier – documents the rare, alchemic connection that the duo experienced. Turner steps into a peplum-hemmed jacket and a sheath-like pencil skirt, throws her head back, and begins to shimmy and two-step in her much-imitated manner for the designer’s petites mains. 

“They’re special clothes, they’re unlike anyone else’s,” she once said. “You have to try it on sometimes just to get the feel of it, you get an attitude with his clothes. You become very French.” The duo collaborated on music videos, tours, and album artwork for decades, but it was in 1988 that their kinship was enshrined on the catwalk. In a now-resurfaced video, Turner closed Alaïa’s autumn collection alongside Farida Khelfa, silhouette pressed into a boned gown in jet-black velvet. Having escaped an abusive marriage in 1976, Turner was 48 years old and at the height of her commercial success – and what she seemed to discover in Alaïa’s clothing was an assertion of that indomitable spirit. 

In the 80s, the designer understood that women needed power and he created clothing in service to the feminine puissant. “It’s important to make women feel confident,” he said. “Because I think they are more important than men.” In echoing the body’s musculature, he provided women with a means of dressing that framed sexiness as strength, refusing to conceal or constrict the feminine silhouette. “I make clothes; women make fashion.” And so Turner’s ownership of her own body – herculean and hurtling about the stage in high-octane, form-fitting costumes – seemed to hang on that same Alaïan architecture. One that was not quite as stolid as the Eiffel Tower, but could still be scaled in a strappy dress and a pair of heels.