Alber Elbaz On His 10th Anniversary Collection for Lanvin: 'I Still Don't Like It'

For the second ever issue of Style.com/print, Style.com's foray into the glossy world, Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz gave the magazine unprec
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Leah Chernikoff
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For the second ever issue of Style.com/print, Style.com's foray into the glossy world, Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz gave the magazine unprec
Photo: Nick Waplington for Style.com/print

Photo: Nick Waplington for Style.com/print

For the second ever issue of Style.com/print, Style.com's foray into the glossy world, Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz gave the magazine unprecedented access into his process leading up to his 10th anniversary show (an experience he likens to asking a "fat man to wear a bikini"). Writer Jo-Ann Furniss and photographer Nick Waplington give readers a glimpse into the last minute tweaks in designing, styling, and fittings leading up to show time. There's a scene where Elbaz is running down the runway during rehearsal to add or take away handbags on looks, and another when Lanvin menswear designer Lucas Ossendrijver, appears from behind a curtain in the makeshift design studio at Hotel de Crillon to grab "a tiny sandwich"--he's there helping prepare for the show, too.

But what really comes across is that Alber Elbaz is one of the most talented, humble and honest designers working today. During a fitting, model Lily Donaldson calls him "a magical man," and it doesn't seem like a hyperbolic thing to say.

Elbaz' 10th anniversary collection for Lanvin earned rave reviews--Style.com/print lists it as number four among their top 10 collections--but following the show Elbaz wasn't happy with it at all:

I do not believe in myself. I had this anxiety attack last night before the show, after the rehearsal. I almost fainted. I hated everything. I closed the door and I was miserable. I did not want to sing. All of a sudden everything seemed wrong. I did not know whether it was right to end this way. I was so unhappy about everything. Even when I look at it now, from the perspective of 12 hours, I still don't like it.

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But, he adds,

If I did love it all, I wouldn't go anywhere. The fact that I don't like it, that I can only see the mistakes, how it could be better, that is the only reason I go into the studio the next day.

For all you aspiring designers out there, Elbaz is the man to listen to. He was scandalously replaced at YSL Rive Gauche by Tom Ford 12 years ago, after Yves Saint Laurent himself had picked Elbaz as his replacement. He explains why that experience didn't "kill" him:

I thought that everybody in the world knew [about his ousting], and that was a bizarre sensation. But in time I learned to overcome that. As I say to people, I was never just ALber from Saint Laurent, and I am not Alber from Lanvin. I am Alber, period. That's why I might have been very hurt, but I was not dead. It didn't kill me.

And it was for those aspiring designers that Elbaz decided to sing that night:

I have never sang in my life and I will never sing again. That is the only reason I was singing. I wanted to dedicate this song to all of the designers in the world and their mothers, to their dreams. Then I wanted to dedicate it to all of the people in the audience, to all of the people who helped me realize my dream. So que sera, sera and what will be will be...

Elbaz also confessed that he changed the words a bit:

I did not want it to be about being rich...In fashion there are certain machinations, who is going where and who is doing what. At the beginning, I dedicated the song to all of the designers, I wanted to say that the future is not ours to see...

And one last bit of advice from Elbaz--because his quotability nearly matches his design talent:

I always say I work only with people I love and I can make only things I love. It's really clear. I cannot work with people I don't like around me. I get very itchy. It is like being fat--and I am--and wearing clothes that don't fit. I need to have this comfort with clothes and I need this comfort with people.

And one more time, because it was so good: