Alber Elbaz has been teasing his new Richemont-backed fashion venture, AZ Factory, since October of 2019 — i.e. before a global pandemic. While Covid-19 may have put a wrench in some of Elbaz's plans, in many ways, this was a fitting time to debut a project that's rooted in rethinking how a fashion brand can operate, when practically every brand is trying to do exactly that.
AZ Factory launched on Tuesday during Paris Haute Couture week, as an invited guest member of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode. It marked Elbaz's long-awaited official return to fashion after being ousted from Lanvin in 2015, and was billed as having an "entertainment-first" approach, playing to the beloved designer's strength as a jovial, lovable, funny personality. In the lead-up to the digital premiere, the brand shared lighthearted behind-the-scenes video content on social media, featuring the blond Elbaz — both real and digitally rendered versions — as well as members of his team. (In one series, they all try and fail to recite the alphabet backwards, in a play on the brand's name.)
The digital presentation itself (which you can watch above) also takes viewers behind the scenes, albeit with a script. Sitting in a film studio, Elbaz inhabits the role of a television news anchor as he talks through each facet of the line, which is comprised of "stories," a term he prefers over "collection" or "capsule." The latter reminds him, a self-professed hypochondriac, of antibiotics, he jokes. Meanwhile, models sometimes serve as remote correspondents; one woman plays a well-dressed producer looking on behind the camera, making sarcastic remarks or calling Elbaz a "genius."
At times, the presentation — which the brand called "The Show Fashion" just to be ~different~ — is trying a little too hard to be fun and quirky. But there's real value in hearing Elbaz speak about each "story," explaining what inspired it and the innovation that went into its creation. (AZ Factory is largely inspired by Silicon Valley, where innovation is key.) We learn that ideas started with conversations Elbaz had with real women about their fashion pain points. Somewhat dishearteningly, he says nearly every woman he met with around the world over the past year said she was struggling with her weight. So he set out to create a "magical dress" that would give any woman, from a size XXS to a 4XL, the body she wants with a new, proprietary fabric that will hug and shape curves and that makes each dress feel custom-made.
He also wanted to make these dresses easy for women to put on, pointing out that while men's clothes always feature buttons and zippers up the front, women's dresses always zip in the back. So, inspired by scuba suits, he designed an aesthetically pleasing gold zipper pull that falls down the back of the dress. There's also footage of all the technology that went into creating this "AnatoKnit" fabric, giving it the right amount of tension and compression and testing to make sure it was perfect. This story is dubbed "My Body."
Elbaz then introduces accessories, including glitzy costume jewelry and one footwear style: a pointy-toe sneaker that's sure to be divisive. He describes the latter as a solution for women who said they've missed wearing high-heel pumps during the pandemic (couldn't be me) because they elongated their legs.
Afterwards, he debuts a range that marries technical Nylons usually reserved for activewear with couture design — "smart fabrics" created in collaboration with European yarn lab Nylstar that can be produced with very little environmental impact. Elbaz calls it "super tech to super chic," and shows a casual assortment of leisurewear or "switchwear" basics that can easily be dressed up to go from yoga to Zoom. Models are seen throwing a voluminous cape or a skirt over a fitted, colorful top-and-legging set, for instance. Then there's "AZ Lazy to AZ Crazy," Elbaz's approach to pajamas that are designed to be seen, featuring colorful silk separates with bright, playful prints.
Though Elbaz is trying to provide a full, problem-solving wardrobe for women (and to present it in a quirky, memorable way) his strengths clearly lie in "My Body" — elegant, trend-averse, no-brainer dresses and separates that are designed to make women of all shapes and sizes feel good. Prices for the first drop on Farfetch range from $280 for an asymmetric top to about $1,500 for some dresses. AZ Factory is also being sold on Net-a-Porter and azfactory.com. It's not cheap, but if the fit and fabric are as revolutionary as the brand promises, that could be a fair price for something classic enough to remain in your closet for seasons to come.
See all of the AZ Factory debut "stories" in the gallery below.