Alber Elbaz sat down with Harper's Bazaar's EIC Glenda Bailey yesterday at Hearst Tower for a "Master Class" session, where he discussed everything from his view on other designers to his own career path--and we got to sit in.
It doesn't take long listening to him to figure out why the entire fashion industry is in love with Elbaz: Not only does he design consistently beautiful things at Lanvin, he's also honest, endlessly charming, and humble.
"I always think I am not really good in what I do and I'm not really beautiful, but I think this is maybe my motivation," he said of himself. "I am always looking for beauty."
After stints at Geoffrey Beene and Guy Laroche, Elbaz was hired by Yves Saint Laurent in 1988, the first designer to work at the brand besides Saint Laurent himself. Elbaz was so nervous, he had taxis drop him off at the other side of the building to avoid the couture house, where Saint Laurent still worked. Elbaz said it was one of the most intimidating experiences of his career.
"I felt like the son-in-law, the one that everybody loves but not really," he explained. "I think I was there too soon. When I was kicked out, I was feeling like a widow."
The end of his time at YSL lead to a year-long break, during which Elbaz considered going to medical school. But thankfully, Lanvin came knocking and gave Elbaz the chance to work in fashion his way: With people he loved designing what he liked. Elbaz recently celebrated his 10th anniversary at Lanvin with a song, "Que Sera, Sera."
"[When I celebrated my ten years at Lanvin] that was the time when there were so many changes, John was out of Dior, Raf Simons was let go, such a great designer, such an amazing talent, and everything was so uncertain," he told Bailey.
"I sang this song in a way for all the designers that I knew to say, 'Que Sera, Sera,' what will be, will be. The future is open and we have to let go, and that was a song for our industry."
And when Bailey inevitably asked about the industry's treatment of the now-disgraced Galliano, Elbaz was nothing but diplomatic. Saying he would speak of Galliano as "a colleague" Elbaz said simply, "It's a shame we all have a very short memory. So all I want to say about that issue is, the bible--and I'm not a religious guy in that sense, whether it's Islam, Judaism, Christianity--is all about forgiveness. So I hope the world will forgive him."
Elbaz was equally democratic regarding recent allegations that Phoebe Philo ripped off a design from his former mentor Geoffrey Beene. "You know what, thank God I'm not a fashion critic, I am not here to critique or to judge anyone," he started.
"Phoebe did, and is doing a great job, I think she is an amazing designer of the moment. And you know, I'm not a kiss-ass person, if there was something, I would say something. But she is so talented and look what she did with Céline, she made it something from nothing in such a short time. I'm sure if Mr. Beene was alive he would be very proud of it."