Alber Elbaz: Lanvin and Beyond
Posted on 14 February 2017
Alber Elbaz has left a mark on the fashion industry that cannot be denied - he’s one of the most loved, most prolifically creative, most hardworking and long-serving designers in the industry. He is an innovator, and his designs are still relevant, even as seasons change.
Elbaz, who was born in Casablanca, Morocco, began his career working at a small dressmaker’s shop in the Garment District of New York. Having moved to Israel in his youth, the designer studied at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, following a three-year mandatory inscription in the Israeli Defence Forces, before moving to New York in 1984.
Elbaz was introduced to couturier Geoffrey Beene in 1989. He was Beene’s assistant until 1996, an experience he credited with providing him with an in-depth education in fashion design. He was later scouted as creative designer for Yves Saint Laurent’s ‘Rive Gauche’ ready-to-wear womenswear line where he stayed for three seasons.
In 2001 Elbaz was hired for the job that would define not only his own personal career but the fashion industry itself - Creative Director of Lanvin. Elbaz is widely credited with transforming the once ailing French couture house into one of the most sought-after luxury labels in the world. When Elbaz started, Lanvin had only 15 wholesale accounts, by 2015 it has more than 400. His poetic designs, intelligent advertising and outsized personality were just what Lanvin needed.
“We were really starting from scratch,” said Natasa Cagalj, who worked closely with Elbaz at Lanvin from 2001 to 2005. “We could hardly get any models for the first show. We joked we would have to get people off the streets of Paris.” By his second season, however, everything had changed. Elbaz began to establish the signatures that became Lanvin’s trademarks; from exposed zippers in the back to grosgrain ribbon trim and a sense of imperfect beauty.
Elbaz remained at the helm of Lanvin for 14 years before it was announced that the two would be parting ways. Despite industry speculation that he would take over at Dior after Raf Simons’s departure, Elbaz remained relatively out of the lime light after leaving the brand.
During a ceremony at the end of last year in which he was made an Officier in the Légion D'Honneur in Paris, Elbaz announced that he has been secretly working on a fragrance with Frédéric Malle to be released some time this year. Both Elbaz and Malle have stated that their relationship is not about simply collaborating, but about friendship and respect.
Speaking to WWD in 2014 Elbaz articulated his love for the fashion industry, his words perfectly illustrating what makes him such a talented designer - his connection with the women he is designing for: “the fact that I can make women, especially women around the world, feel beautiful in front of the mirror, and for them, I’m very, very happy. That makes me happy. That makes me very happy.”
No matter what lies in Elbaz’s future, whether he returns to the fashion industry or pursues other endeavours we’re excited to see what he has in store for us.