A designer with “ unbridled creativity ” and warmth
Alber Elbaz, of Moroccan origin, died on Saturday May 24 in Paris from complications related to Covid-19. He was only 59 years old.
The womenswear designer was the head of some of Paris’ most prestigious fashion houses, but his career has not been straightforward, causing both praise and setback at Yves Saint Laurent and Lanvin.
Elbaz studied fashion design at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan, Israel, before moving to New York City in 1984. He became an assistant to American men’s and women’s clothing designer Geoffrey Beene in 1989 and worked with him for seven years until 1996. Beene passed away in 2004 and his company was acquired by PVH in 2017.
Two years as creative director of French luxury house Guy Laroche followed for Elbaz in 1996, a role born out of a friendship with then-retail director Ralph Toledano, who is now chairman of the governing body. of French fashion Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion.
In a statement on Sunday, Toledano said: “Alber Elbaz had immense talent. He put love and humanity at the center of his work. He had an absolute and motivating desire for modernity. He felt things better than anyone else. and took the time and distance to reinvent his fashion work between know-how and innovation.
Toledano said of their long friendship: “He was my brother by heart.”
Elbaz was put in charge of Yves Saint Laurent’s ready-to-wear brand, Rive Gauche, as Creative Director in 1998. However, when the brand was taken over by the Gucci Group in 2000, at barely three seasons, the American designer Tom Ford was installed in the place of Elbaz.
Elbaz landed on his feet and went straight to the role of Creative Director at Lanvin, where he spent 14 years between 2001 and 2015, leaving after a reported disagreement between Lanvin owner Shaw-Lan Wang and General Manager Michèle. Huiban.
Elbaz specializes in celebrating femininity and he has dressed some of the most famous women in the world today. At Lanvin, he designed the gold lamé dress worn by Meryl Streep to collect her Oscar for The Iron Woman in 2012, and he dressed the legendary American actress two more times for the event: an asymmetric, monochrome dress in 2014, and a chic tuxedo jacket and skirt in 2015.
Streep was a longtime Elbaz fan, and praised the designer in 2015: “Alber’s dresses for Lanvin are the only ones that when I wear them I feel like myself, even a better version of her. .
Actress Natalie Portman has worn dresses designed by Elbaz for Lanvin on several occasions, while Kim Kardashian has opted for structured looks from the designer, and actress Emma Stone has been pictured in modern outfits on the red carpet, including including her leather, sculptures and mini-dresses.
After leaving Lanvin in 2015, Elbaz received the prestigious distinction of the French Legion of Honor in October 2016. He never joined another fashion house but entered into a partnership with Richemont – owner of the Yoox Net-a group -Porter, Azzedine Alaïa, Chloé and Dunhill – in 2019. Backed by the Swiss luxury conglomerate, he launched the high-end women’s ready-to-wear brand AZ Factory, playing on his initials, in January this year.
The new initiative builds on what Elbaz has done best: creating clothes that would give women confidence and celebrate their shape. The collection of bodycon dresses, tops and jumpsuits has been designed to provide support for an inclusive range of sizes and ages. The brand was launched with a fashion film during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week in January, and is sold on Net-a-Porter and Farfetch.
Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert announced Elbaz’s death in a statement praising “Elbaz’s intelligence, sensitivity, generosity and unbridled creativity,” adding: “I lost not only a colleague but a friend beloved”.
Famous Elbaz fans including Kardashian and Portman have praised his kindness, warmth and talent. The industry mourns the loss of one of its most beloved and endearing characters.
He is survived by his partner Alex Koo, whom he reportedly met in 1993. Koo was director of merchandising at Lanvin and also left the brand in 2015.