Supermodel leads mourning for fashion's 'King of Cling'

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Naomi Campbell (L) at Azzedine Alaia's funeral in Sidi Bou Said on November 20, 2017

Supermodel Naomi Campbell and Tunisia's president led mourners in a final tribute Monday to French-Tunisian fashion designer Azzedine Alaia, who died this month aged 77 after winning a worldwide following.

Campbell and fellow fashion icon Farida Khelfa, close friends of Alaia, accompanied his remains from France to Tunisia, French Ambassador Olivier Poivre d'Arvor told AFP.

Alaia, dubbed the "King of Cling" for his form-fitting gowns, was buried in the famous blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said on the shores of the Mediterranean.

An AFP journalist saw Campbell leaving Alaia's home surrounded by dozens of people to head for the cemetery of Sidi Bou Said in the northern suburbs of Tunis.

Visibly moved, she picked her way between the cemetery's modest white tombstones on Khelfa's arm.

President Beji Caid Essebsi, Alaia's relatives and public figures took part in the commemoration.

Culture Minister Mohamed Zine El Abidine paid tribute to Alaia, saying the designer's work had expressed "the quintessence, the beauty, the fertile imagination" of Tunisia.

Among Alaia's admirers at the funeral, Tunisian designer Salah Barka gave hommage to the man he considered to be a master.

"I learned a lot with Azzedine Alaia," he said. "He sculpted women's bodies. I learned to mix colours, to blend materials, to give character..."

Alaia was born to a farming family in Tunisia in 1940 and studied sculpture at the capital's fine arts school before working at a modest neighbourhood dressmaker's shop.

He moved to Paris in the late 1950s, working briefly for Dior and Guy Laroche before going solo, winning a reputation for sexy designs celebrating the female form.

His muses ranged from French actress and singer Arletty to Hollywood icon Greta Garbo and statuesque Jamaican singer and actress Grace Jones.

Alaia gained world fame in the 1980s with tight black shorts and back-zipping skirts, designs that helped define the confident female silhouette of the time.

He refused to march to the beat of international fashion weeks, however, releasing his collections in his own time with scant concern for publicity.

Among others, Alaia dressed pop sensation Tina Turner, supermodel Carla Bruni, and former American first lady Michelle Obama.