Elbaz learned his craft at Beene’s elbow In New York, where he would remain for seven years, before emerging onto the international radar. The charismatic Israeli designer is known for his positivity and kindness, flair and couture-like approach to ready-to-wear. It was after an early placement at Guy Laroche, that he went on to work at Yves Saint Laurent. It was expected that he would become its creative director when Saint Laurent would retire. He left when Gucci bought the house and Tom Ford was appointed instead. It was not until 2001, when Elbaz was brought in to lead Lanvin’s creative team, where he found his home and shaped Lanvin to the image of his own world. He restored Paris’ oldest existing maison, the legacy of Jeanne Lanvin, which at that time had been forgotten.
Lanvin became a vision of luxury and femininity under Elbaz, in which his signature draped silhouettes and comically-sized costume jewellery are paired with bright prints and ethereal cocktail dresses, using fabrics to their best advantage. This would become the famous Lanvin aesthetic.
As Vogue International’s Suzy Menkes accurately noted: “Elbaz is every woman’s darling.” Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Nicole Kidman and Kim Kardashian would all become a big fan of Elbaz’ aesthetics. Speaking of Kardashian, the only time Kim ever looked so stunningly classy was when wearing one of his creations, frequently seated front row at his shows. Concerned with what women want and need, his designs fused beauty and practicality: Replacing buttons with zippers- and proving that women could look just as sexy on a pair of flats as they would on heels. He brought sophistication back, in a time where it has become a rare thing to find. He wasn’t on Instagram building an army, he wasn’t concerned with trends, he only wanted to make women more beautiful, in doing what he loves most; design. Humble and kind as he is, he never forgot to mention his team collection after collection- and didn’t fail doing so either in his exit statement just this week.
While his work for Lanvin was traditional and feminine, Elbaz also had an eye for the ever- changing times. The designer was one of the first to do a collaboration with H&M, producing an elegant and accessible collection that expanded Lanvin’s name outside the high-minded world of Parisian couture- and ahead of the industry, he was one of the first to produce the high-end sneaker; the infamous Lanvin trainers.
Like Raf Simons and Dries van Noten, Elbaz too questions the pace of fashion today and the influence of Social Media, which he says has ‘crushed’ fashion. During a sixteen minute acceptance speech at The Fashion Group International event last week, the designer made several comments about the effects of Social media on fashion, Elbaz challenged how the ever-accelerating fashion system is chipping away at creativity. He called out to editors for awareness, talking about a new kind of disconnect: “The fashionistas are very, very busy filming. When I came out after the show, I felt there was no clapping. I said, ‘What’s going?’ on and they said, ‘They’re filming. They don’t have two hands to clap.”
Elbaz’ exit from Lanvin is a huge loss for the maison and ultimately for the fashion industry. Living in the age of Social Media and growing demand of collections, we need designers who safeguard fashion’s integrity and artistic depth. Where would the fashion industry be, without influential designers with years of experience who dare to challenge the status quo? Elbaz is one of those designers capable of such. And let’s face it, whoever gets him next is very lucky.