Yesterday Alber Elbaz showed his fall 10th anniversary collection for Lanvin at Barneys before a select group of VIP customers, socialites, and celebrities including a very pregnant Uma Thurman. It felt a bit more personal and emotional than most fashion events, and that's all thanks to Elbaz, who spoke both before and after the show with the kind of honesty, humility and self-deprecating humor that's rare in this industry--and makes him impossible not to love.
Elbaz warmed up the well-heeled crowd by taking cracks at his weight, saying that he always intends to diet before each show "eating sashimi and avoiding carbs but then..." he trailed off and pulled out a cardboard cut out of trim James Bond with his own head photshopped onto it. The crowd burst out laughing. And they did again and again as Elbaz continued.
We already learned a lot about the bow-tied and bespectacled designer from that in-depth profile in Style.com/print that came out last week. But yesterday we learned more: Like how Barneys almost refused to buy his first collection at Lanvin, or that time when he gave up fashion to be a doctor, and whether he's finally satisfied with his fall collection that he previously claimed not to like. Barneys almost didn't buy Elbaz's first collection for Lanvin: After the show Elbaz grabbed the mike to address the crowd once again, even though he wasn't supposed to. When Elbaz presented his first collection for Lanvin to Barneys, he said, "After 15 minutes they left the showroom and they said to me that they won't be able to buy Lanvin because we weren't prepared we didn't have the prices and dresses weren't finished." So what did Elbaz do? "I ran after them with a bouquet of flowers that was on my table and I asked them to 'Please come back I'm so sorry we're not prepared but it's the first show!' and since then family was Barneys and Barneys was family.' Barneys truly has a special place in Elbaz's heart. He also confided that he met his partner at Barneys 18 years ago and they're still together today.
After Elbaz was ousted from YSL, he left to travel and...become a doctor? 'I left fashion because I didn't like the system," he said. "And I traveled. And I was going to be a doctor because, I like aspirin, I like Tylenol." We're glad he came back to fashion.
Elbaz came to New York to 'make it' just like you...and says no one would sleep with him: "When I got here I had just two suitcases and $800 because that's all my mother could give me and no portfolio and I didn't look so good so no one would sleep with me," he said. Then he started working for Geoffrey Beene who "opened all the doors."
Elbaz puts peplums on his dresses so you can actually eat dinner: Elbaz saw too many women looking in the mirror and covering their stomachs. "I created the peplum so you can eat in it," Elbaz said. "You can have a dessert, you can have another sandwich." [Ed. note: thank you]
We got a few minutes to chat with the designer following the show. We had to ask, is he finally satisfied with his fall collection? "It's very hard for me to look back at the clothes, once they're done they're done and I'm already on the next one. So, just for a few minutes today once I saw it on the girls and I saw the reaction, of course, I'm happy. But that's it. Tomorrow is another day and we start all over again."
So you really almost gave up fashion to be a doctor? Why did you come back? It's about the story of going back and doing the only thing I know how to do. I'm so clumsy and I'm so unathletic and I don't even know how to drive so just doing clothes, that's what I can do. And not just doing it but doing it differently and doing it my way.
We loved when you danced to Pit Bull and sang "Que Sera Sera" at your fall show... I'm not starting a singing career don't you worry...
Click through for more photos from the event.
Photos: Billy Farrell Agency