AZ Fashion: A look back over Alber Elbaz's storied career in fashion
The former Lanvin designer is back with a his own new line
Moroccan-born designer Alber Elbaz has dipped in and out of the spotlight following his abrupt dismissal from Lanvin in 2015. That is until he announced the launch of his own label, AZ Fashion, with the Swiss luxury group Richemont earlier this week. Here, we take a look back at Elbaz’s storied career.
Born in Casablanca to a hairdresser and painter, Elbaz started sketching dresses at the age of seven. His artistic mum supported her 24-year-old son when he decided to pursue a career in fashion and moved from Ramat Gan, in Israel, to New York City. After working at a small dressmaker’s shop in the Garment District, Elbaz trained under American designer Geoffrey Beene for seven years. Elbaz went on to become one of the industry’s most prolific creators, and was constantly trying to walk the line between runway looks for the stick-thin models who dominated the 1990s and stylish garments for “real” women.
His was the creative hand behind fluid tulle and one-shouldered goddess dresses, ribbon-strewn zippers, floral appliqued tracksuits (at a time when the term athleisure was not in the style dictionary) and bejewelled necklines. Wearable sensuality aside, Elbaz became known for his cutesy accessories and caricaturist sketches, which he unabashedly paired with Lanvin’s exquisite clothes, bags and shoes on international runways – from “Happy” necklaces and lollipops, to his own geek-chic glasses and ubiquitous bow tie.
Before his 14-year stint at the French fashion house, Elbaz worked for Guy Laroche and Yves Saint Laurent – however, he is widely credited with breathing new life into Lanvin after joining in 2001, and transformed it from a financially ailing maison to one of the most coveted couture labels around (sales have reportedly slumped again since Elbaz left four years ago).
After being ousted, reportedly due to internal disagreements, Elbaz has kept a relatively low profile despite being one of the most loved personalities in the notoriously cut-throat industry. He dabbled in a few projects, notably creating loafers and bags for Tod’s, and a perfume he named Superstitious with French master perfumer Frederic Malle.
Malle says: “I had always admired Alber [Elbaz]’s work. He is someone who actually made women more beautiful by being respectful towards them, rather than trying to steal the show from them. So I called him, and we had lunch. And we realised we are on the same wavelength: we both hate typical back-to-success marketing recipes, and we are both very superstitious.
“Alber, for instance, will only cut a piece of fabric in one go, and he will never take a pair of scissors from someone’s hand. At one point in the process, Alber said the perfume should be less marketing and more superstition. And this is how the name, as well as the eye motif seen on the bottle, came along. In fact, Alber sketched the eye himself.”
Not much is known just yet about the designer’s latest venture, AZ Fashion, except that it will be project-based rather than seasonal, and will focus on “developing solutions for women of our times”.
Updated: October 31, 2019 10:04 AM