We love Alber Elbaz–the Lanvin designer is one of the rare fashion people who somehow seems to stay grounded and maintain a healthy perspective on everything. In an industry with a lot of big egos, he’s humble and self-deprecating–maybe to a fault, as a new Times profile by Eric Wilson reveals.
Wilson at least makes it clear that Elbaz, whose “tendency to put himself beneath others can be to a fault,” is uncomfortable in the spotlight and with the shifting focuses of the fashion industry:
The behind the scenes is almost becoming as important as the scene. It is like, when we are at the shows today, what we see the editors wearing is almost more important than what they are seeing on the runway. In art, the curators are becoming more important than the artists. Now it becomes about how you put your show together, and not about what you show.
We figure these statements should strike a chord with designers. It’s true that fashion shows seem to have become more and more about the spectacle and the street style and less about the actual clothes.
Towards the end of the piece, Wilson describes the party that Barneys president Mark Lee threw to celebrate Elbaz and his 10 years at Lanvin as a “comedy of errors.” First Elbaz says he sat in the car for 15 minutes, having an anxiety attack, before he could go inside. Once inside the party, a piece of artwork fell, a toilet overflowed and the fire department came because birthday cake sparklers set off the alarm. The whole thing was overshadowed by the fact that the party’s host had been part of Gucci Group when they took over YSL and fired Elbaz just a year after he’d been hired to design ready to wear. So, as the cake was being cut, Elbaz decided to say, “Just to remind everybody, Mark fired me 12 years ago.”
Although the statement “sucked the air out of the room,” it wasn’t out of bitterness. “We have a history and, yes, he fired me, but time goes by and we change,” Mr. Elbaz says in the article. “When things like this happen, it’s your choice whether you are going to be a victim or move on. I am much happier today than I was before.”
Just goes to show–even the world’s most celebrated fashion designers have awkward moments.