I was deeply saddened to find out about the death of Alber Elbaz; former creative director of Lanvin. He passed away from Covid at age 59 on April 24th, this is yet another reminder of how grave a problem this pandemic is. This sad news took me back and I found myself drowning in the history of both Alber and Lanvin and naturally wanted to share the story in memory of both Alber Elbaz’s and Jeanne Lanvin’s heritage.
For those of you not very familiar with Lanvin; it all began with Jeanne Lanvin who was born in Paris on January 1st, 1867 in a family of 11 children. At just the tender age of 13 she began working for a milliner, responsible for delivering the hats to clients. A couple of years later she began her milliner apprenticeship. Her hats proved to be a hit and later at age 22 she opened up her own shop which gained success among the Parisian ladies. With time her legacy grew, being inspired most by her daughter she was first to create a children’s line in 1908, devoting a section of her store to it.
“first dazzling her daughter, little by little, she will dazzle the world”
-Louise de Vilmorin
As her daughter grew, so did her brand and she expanded into womenswear, menswear, perfumes, lingerie, etc and even dabbled in decor. Unlike her contemporaries such as Chanel who were modernizing the scene with minimal cuts and styles, Jeanne chose to keep to the classic silhouettes and fashions of her time. Jeanne had an innate sense of business and would grow her brand to international heights, a great example of her success was the creation of the Arpège perfume for her daughter which saw great sales when launched in America. Her empire continued to grow but unfortunately, Jeanne passed away at age 79 on July 6th, 1946, leaving behind a great legacy.
Marguerite, Jeanne’s daughter took over until 1950 after which the house saw many creative directors and eventually was purchased by : L’Oréal in 1996. This soon leads us to 2001 when Alber Elbaz is appointed as creative director of the oldest house still in operation to this day.
Born in Casablanca on June 12th, 1961. His family moved to Tel Aviv when he was 10. From a young age Alber would harbor a love for drawing and fashion.
“When I was either seven or eight years old, I did a sketch every day of my teacher and what she wore, at the end of the year, I gave her the sketchbook. For me, the sketching of dresses was about fantasy and dreams. In my little room at home, I felt that I was somewhere else. In Paris, for instance.”
Alber later went on to study fashion design at Shenkar College of Textile Technology and Fashion. In 1987 he moved to New York and began working with Geoffrey Beene who was always dazzling with his cuts and draping. In 1996 he was appointed creative director of Guy Laroche; the French couture house and easily kept the clientele happy. Just two years later he was offered to design womenswear at Yves Saint Laurent.
“For me, this isn’t a career move, but the realisation of my life’s dream.”
Unfortunately; soon after, in 2001 Gucci Group purchased YSL and Tom Ford (then director at Gucci) took over YSL. Though Alber was let go from YSL this is what soon lead to him being appointed to his most iconic role; the creative director of Lanvin.
“I love and respect women. I work mostly with women. And you know, our logo for Lanvin is a mother and a daughter. I’ve always said, ‘It’s not a lion, and it’s not a horse. It’s a mother and a daughter.’ I find the logo very emotional.”
Alber would remain at Lanvin for the next 14 years. Best known for his emphasis on colour, use of details, the fluidity of draping, all creating understated elegance which proved to breathe life again into Lanvin. He quickly and effortlessly revitalized Lanvin throughout his years at the house. However, in 2015, after drops in sales and disagreements with shareholders it was announced Alber was leaving Lanvin.
But it was not over for Alber as he finally got freedom through his own label. In 2019 he launched AZ Factory, his own brand in partnership with Richemont group. Their mission is as follows:
“We believe in smart fashion that cares.
We design beautiful, practical, and solutions-driven fashion that works for everyone.
Our products are here to solve problems and create joy.”
It is with sadness that Alber will no longer be there but thankfully, the legacy and vision will continue to live on through his brand. An that COVID, is something you are unable to kill.