Alber Elbaz: Beloved Designer That Left Too Quickly

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Image Credit: Stephane Feugere/WWD

The fashion world has yet again lost one of its brightest stars to Covid-19, Alber Elbaz was aged 59 before the coronavirus took him away from his family and friends. Instantly recognisable from his oversized round glasses and bow ties, the celebrated designer has also earned fans with his affable and buoyant demeanour. “I have lost not only a colleague but a beloved friend,” Richemont founder and chairman Johann Rupert said about the sudden passing of Elbaz.

Born in Morocco and raised in Israel, Elbaz began sketching dresses when he was only seven years old and this passion for fashion became his motivation to launch his career in 1985. He moved to New York and worked for designer Geoffrey Beene. 

In 1996, he moved to Paris to take on the reins at Guy Laroche before being chosen to succeed the legendary couturier, Yves Saint Laurent, as creative director of the ready-to-wear line Rive Gauche. Elbaz was at YSL for just three seasons before the brand was taken over by the Gucci Group and he was ousted, to be replaced by Tom Ford.

Following him leaving YSL, Elbaz landed himself at Lanvin, one of France’s oldest couture houses. Founded in 1889 by Jeanne-Marie Lanvin, the small fashion house focused on menswear. It was at this small privately owned brand that he truly flourished. Under his guidance, he transformed the brand and switched its focus to women’s fashion. Soon enough, Lanvin became the top Parisian fashion house and that catapulted Elbaz to the top echelon of the fashion world and adorned by celebrities such as Tilda Swinton, Natalie Portman and Meryl Streep.

“His elegant, feminine designs and pulse-pounding runway shows… had a carnival spirit”. — WWD

During his time at Lavin, 14 years to be exact, he was known for his cocktail dresses and a strong women-first ethos. As for his design signatures: industrial zips and exposed hems were commonly seen throughout his collections. “It’s all about zip-in and zip-out,” said Elbaz in an interview in 2014. Unfortunately, he was fired in 2015 and this news shocked everyone within the fashion industry.  

Fashion shot of a model at a presentation for the 2010 Cruise/Resort ready-to-wear (rtw) show for Lanvin designed by Alber Elbaz, wearing a long strapless aqua blue gown with pink flat sandals, several bracelets, a green soft hat and an oversize necklace in pink

Elbaz didn’t join any fashion houses but he kept himself busy with small collaborations with brands such Tod’s, Converse, Lancome and others, but was never part of the fashion industry for five years. Of his hiatus, he told Wallpaper magazine, “I’ve had the time to observe and live a life not as a fashion designer but just as a human being.”

The desire to design was undoubtedly still blazing within Elbaz as he unveiled his new label, AZ Factory, during Paris’ couture week in January and this new project turned fashion on its head. AZ Factory was a size-inclusive brand that seamlessly blended traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology and the result is formfitting dresses that caught the eye of celebrities.  

“His inclusive vision of fashion made women feel beautiful and comfortable by blending traditional craftsmanship with technology – highly innovative projects which sought to redefine the industry,” said Rupert of the partnership with AZ Factory.

“The world has lost a legend,” the AZ Factory team said in a statement. “The power of his vision, his extraordinary imagination, his adoration of women, and his kind heart have fueled his latest gift to our lives: AZ Factory.

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