Alber Elbaz, affable designer who transformed the fortunes of the Lanvin fashion house obituary – MSN UK

Posted By on May 8, 2021

Matt Baron/Shutterstock Alber Elbaz in 2016 - Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Alber Elbaz, who has died of Covid-19 aged 59, was the affable creative director of Lanvin from 2001 to 2015, transforming one of the oldest fashion houses in France into one of the 21st centurys most exciting luxury labels, defined by classic cuts and lush fabrics, offset by striking costume jewellery and a romantic, off-kilter aesthetic.

Elbaz created the gold dress worn by Meryl Streep when she accepted her Oscar for Best Actress in 2012 for The Iron Lady, while Kate Moss wore an Elbaz dress on her first night out after giving birth to her daughter, Lila Grace, and Tilda Swinton wore an Elbaz black bias-cut skirt and fawn chiffon blouse at the 2009 Oscars ceremony.

Elbazs creations for Lanvin came with astronomical price tags (2,000 to 6,000 for an evening dress) but his designs were always practical, easy to wear and highly desirable. When in 2010 he entered into a collaboration with the high street giant H & M with a one-off designer collection, some women were so keen to get their hands on high fashion at low prices that they camped outside the stores overnight.

He was born Albert Elbaz in Casablanca on February 6 1961 into a Sephardic Jewish family, the youngest of four children. The family moved to Israel, where his father worked as a colourist in a hair salon. His mother was a painter.

After studying fashion in Tel Aviv, he moved to New York aged 25 and found work with a bridal gown manufacturer. In 1985, through a fellow worker, he got a job as design assistant to Geoffrey Beene, moving in 1996 to Paris where, despite not having a word of French, he joined the house of Guy Laroche as head of prt--porter.

In 1998 Elbaz was invited by Pierre Berg, co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent, to take over as creative director. He recalled that when he phoned his mother to tell her the news she said: Thats great, Alber. But when are you getting married?

Soon afterwards, however, YSL was sold to the Gucci Group, whose creative director Tom Ford wanted the design role, and Elbaz was dismissed.

Rescue came in the form of Shaw-Lan Wang, who had bought Lanvin from LOral and appointed Elbaz its creative director in 2001, with freedom to develop his own aesthetic.

Elbaz went on to achieve the difficult feat of establishing Lanvin as a celebrity favourite but with an offbeat feel (signature touches included industrial zips on colourful cocktail dresses and raw edges) that made clients feel they had joined an exclusive club.

At shows, the self-effacing Elbaz, whose roly poly figure and Chaplinesque walk bore witness to his appreciation of a good lunch, was one of the few designers thoughtful enough to offer refreshments. We realise that when people are too hungry, they are really nasty, he told The Daily Telegraph. Especially those ladies who do all these shows during the day, and they eat nothing because they want to look skinnier than the models We give them a drink and something to eat and a forgiving light, so everybody feels comfortable.

In 2015 Wang sacked him after reported differences over strategy, a parting of ways he found deeply distressing. He eventually re-emerged, however, and in 2019 founded the AZ Factory label, dedicated to what he called purposeful, solutions-driven fashion that works for everyone, with affordable designs in sizes ranging from XXS to 4XL.

He was appointed an Officer of the Legion dhonneur in 2016.

He is survived by his partner, Alex Koo.

Alber Elbaz, born June 12 1961, died April 24 2021

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