“Elbaz is every woman’s darling” declares Suzy Menkes, praising the genial Moroccan-Israeli designer who made his name by striving “to make the woman look beautiful, to make her fly”. Alber Elbaz has been lauded with endless awards, but is most famous for his revival of the French fashion house Lanvin, where he worked as creative director for 14 years. The Culture Trip brings you the need-to-know guide to the perfectionist designer with a penchant for exceptional bowties.
Though pre-Elbaz Lanvin designs of the 1920s perfected the traditional and tiered ruffle, the designer revitalized the frill by giving it a contemporary edge. By adding rough edges and moving ruffles from hemlines to shoulders, the gathered material provided a way for Elbaz to embrace tradition while developing new techniques for the modern day woman.
Whether it’s a sequined dress or embellished tweed, Elbaz’s weakness is for anything that shines. A key identifying factor, you won’t see Elbaz channeling hobo chic or normcore. Instead he upholds the glamour of couture fashion with his bijous, stating that what “seems ugly is the new beautiful, and I’m not into that. Beautiful is beautiful, and it’s timeless. And ugly is ugly.” Minimalists have been warned.
“I realised that fashion is not really about the body at all,” Elbaz famously explained. He often layers and drapes elaborate materials in his designs, aiming to make the wearer comfortable in the fabulous-without-being-unforgivably-fitted outfits. The designer’s love for drapery can also be spotted in his bows, both in the form of runway dresses and the one permanently around his neck.
Where is Alber Elbaz from? Alber Elbaz was born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1961. When he was 10 his family moved to Holon, an industrial town in Israel.
Where did Alber Elbaz start learning about couture? Alber Elbaz worked under Geoffrey Beene’s mentorship between 1989 until 1996 before moving to Guy Laroche in Paris and eventually being appointed creative designer for Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Rive Gauche’ ready-to-wear womenswear line. “Mr. Beene taught me my work. And, also and above all, that work is almost an antibiotic, it cleanses the problem”, Elbaz explained.
Why did Alber Elbaz leave Yves Saint Laurent? After the Gucci Group bought the label in 1999, they appointed Tom Ford as the new creative director of the French label. Following his dismissal, Alber Elbaz travelled around Israel, India and South America. Somewhat surprisingly, Elbaz took this time out to assess whether he wanted to stay in fashion or become a nurse. However, he realised that “I didn’t want to be second in command, so I said, ‘no nurse.'”
When did Alber Elbaz start working at Lanvin? He became creative director at Lanvin in 2001, transforming and revitalizing the fashion powerhouse through his 14 year run at the company. “We are still an industry that basically needs a seamstress, a needle and some thread” explaining the brand’s persistence in functioning as a full atelier.
When did Alber Elbaz leave Lanvin? The designer was controversially ousted in 2015. The dismissal shocked the fashion world, with the former French culture minister, Jack Lang, asserting that “to cut the wings of this exceptional talent in this way makes me very sad and angry. He is one of our national treasures”. Alber Elbaz explains that the departure was “the decision of the company’s majority shareholder”, indicating the Taiwanese businesswoman Shaw-Lan Wang. In response, Shaw-Lan Wang cited poor quality designs.
What is Alber Elbaz doing now? “Since I left Lanvin I have a huge scar. For the first couple of months, I walked around Paris and it was raining. I never knew if it was the rain or my tears,” the designer said to a crowd at The New School’s Parsons School of Design. From his instagram, Elbaz is currently taking some time out, and travelling.
On being cool: The word ‘cool’ is the word I hate most in the world – Harper’s Bazaar
On working: Work is the only place I feel beautiful. The only place. It is my remedy to everything – Business of Fashion
On being irreplaceable: When you are good and when you are professional, don’t be scared, because nobody can erase you– Forbes
On difficult colleagues: I don’t work well with bitches. The minute I work with difficult people, I lose my creativity – Refinery 29