Alber Elbaz is a designer that both loves and respects women’s bodies. During his 14-year tenure at the house of Lanvin, the couture-like creations he produced were flattering for the female form in a way that many other designers simply haven’t understood. Now, with the recent announcement that he has officially been fired from the maison, the industry laments the loss of a genius on so many different levels. Because it was not just Elbaz’ craftsmanship that made him stand out amongst the crowd, but also his sharp wit and enduring sense of humour.
Although the reason for Alber Elbaz’s Lanvin departure was initially unclear, the Israeli designer last week issued a personal statement confirming that he was indeed ousted. And it appears that the reason for his dismissal came down to slowed growth over the past few years — despite the fact that Elbaz almost single-handedly transformed the once-ailing French couture house into a well-developed, global luxury label. Or the fact that he holds at least a 10 percent stake in the house of Lanvin, for that matter. The news came as a shock to many, but now that the dust has begun to settled, a genuine sense of fear for the future of the industry has now taken hold. One thing has become abundantly clear: what the fuck will happen to fashion without Alber Elbaz? Below are just some of the reasons why he is such a necessary force within the industry and why his departure will leave a cavernous hole empty.
1) His ‘woman’ was not narrowly defined
Alber Elbaz dressed all sorts of women. From Natalie Portman to Kim Kardashian, his representation of women’s bodies was inclusive rather than exclusive. He celebrated and embraced the fuller-figured Kardashian just as much as he did the slender frame of Portman. And, importantly, his designs were fun and feminine, but at the same time always had a certain sense of strength about them. I believe it was something that derived from the confidence he inspired in women; encouraging them to dress for their bodies and to feel great about themselves. Which, let’s face it, is something that fashion so rarely does well.
2) He injected a much-needed sense of humour into fashion
Some of Alber Elbaz’ famous witticisms run the gamut of: “Fashion is like a fruit. You couldn’t eat it a day before and you couldn’t eat it a day after. It’s just about today.” And “If it’s not edible, it’s not food. If it’s not wearable, it’s not fashion.” Not only did he draw parallels between food and fashion, though, but he also gave us some hilarious videos of dancing models like the one above — and he did it all with a smile. Basically, Alber Elbaz is like the anti-Karl Lagerfeld. Not the unapproachable or untouchable designer, but the one that you could imagine welcoming you with open arms.
3) He rejected the falseness of fashion
Alber Elbaz believes in embracing who you are, which feels very anti-fashion. “Wear flats,” he famously said. “You’re short. It’s much cooler not to pretend.” And although he thought that being yourself was ‘cool’, he also believed that you shouldn’t get too caught up in trying to be cool. “I prefer being relevant to being cool, he said. “Because if you’re cool, you’re also cold the next day. So it’s more about being relevant. The one thing that always scares me is to be like the Miss America of the moment, because next year there is a new Miss America.” Fashion is all about glorifying the latest industry darling — whether that be the latest ‘it’ model, or the most buzzed about new actress on the scene — and then moving on to the next one in almost no time at all. So in a world so consumed by this vortex of superficiality, Elbaz offered the refreshing perspective that we so desperately needed. He loved all women equally and was more about the humour and the levity of it all than he was about chasing the next Alexa Chung.
4) He knew that real style was about so much more than brands
“Style is the only thing you can’t buy,” Alber Elbaz believed. “It’s not in a shopping bag, a label, or a price tag. It’s something reflected from our soul to the outside world—an emotion.” It was perhaps for this reason that he was so skilled at designing clothes that women actually wanted to wear. Not in the sense that they were the hottest new thing, either, but in the sense that they tapped into our baser wants — to be comfortable, but also chic. To be feminine, but also strong and above all to have some damn fun, because that’s what fashion should really be about. In other words, Alber Elbaz really did understand what women want. And that seems to have been the true key to his success. A lesser designer would never have been able to turn the house of Lanvin into what it is today, for example. His departure is not just a loss for the maison, but it’s also a loss for the fashion industry as a whole. So who cares if sales have slowed slightly? Much of the world is still experiencing financial crisis and, you know what, shit happens. This latest move really does make me wonder: what has the world of fashion come to? And can we save it?
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