June 26, 2012
A ten-year anniversary at Lanvin and a lavish new book have designer Alber Elbaz tickled pink
By Nancy Staab
In our exclusive LuxeCrush interview, Lanvin’s bespectacled designer Alber Elbaz holds little back—dishing about which starlet he would have loved to have dressed, sketching in his PJs, and why the French cognoscenti nearly fainted when he dared to stonewash Duchess silk!
Carey Mulligan wore your carnation red dress to a recent SAG Awards and set the fashion bar that night for modern elegance. Then Emma Stone did a repeat in her red Lanvin at this year’s Costume Institute Gala. You have also dressed Nicole Kidman, Natalie Portman and Kate Moss. Who would be your next ideal fashion conquest and how would you dress them?
I love dressing women who have strong characters and personality and I need to have an emotional connection to them. I don’t like to dress celebrities just because they are famous or beautiful or cool; I need to know them and love them. I would have loved to dress the late Elizabeth Taylor in a grand, shiny dress!
Is it true that you actually do much of your sketching in you pajamas watching TV?!
Sketching is a very intimate moment and I need to be totally relaxed because I am boiling inside before the process begins. I always sketch at home, isolated from the world around me and dreaming. I start sketching at about 5 or 6 o’clock in the morning, with my coffee and turn on the TV, usually CNN or 24-hour disaster news channels. It’s a part of my distraction. I need to be absolutely comfortable and there is nothing more comfortable than pajamas when working at home! (P.S. My pajamas have no logos on them.)
Though Moroccan-born and Israeli-bred, you received the chevalier award in Paris; you work for a French fashion house; and you live in Paris, so in what ways have you absorbed Parisian chic in your fashion DNA?
The French are known to say “impossible” to anything that you may ask which does not conform to their traditional way. But you learn over time that you must first build a relationship with them and love them, and then everything is possible. The first time I asked a famous silk manufacturer in Lyon to try to stonewash duchess silk, they almost had a heart attack! But I wanted to push them forward to experiment and to create new fabrics for today’s women. [This is] what I love about working in France: their pride and passion to produce the best.
You wrap your women in dreamy clothes and fabrics that drape, ruffle, swirl and undulate softly around the body. Do you consider yourself a sculptor in any way?
My job is to dress women, not to undress them. Maybe that’s why I always prefer to cover them up! I never consider myself as an “artist” in any way. It’s more like working in a laboratory searching for solutions, testing innovative techniques, and finding new directions.
It’s clear you have a beautiful sensibility for color. One example: the gorgeous sorbet shades of watermelon, cantaloupe etc. in your spring 2010 collection. Your father was a colorist, you mother a painter, so where does your color sense come from and what colors are you dreaming of for the next collection?
Colors have to do with intuition. I am a man of contradictions. I love colors but I also love all the shades of black, navy and chocolate browns. Color is like salt in the kitchen: too much of it can turn sour, and tasteless if not enough.
That collection [Spring 2010] was all about collapsing draping as if you got soaked in the spring rain. We took designs usually done in more still evening fabrics, like duchess satin, silk taffeta and gazar and translated them into soft collapsing fabrics in shades of lipstick and powder colors. The finale was based on layering dresses for women who cannot decide which dress to wear so you wear them both, one on top of the other!
You also have a men’s line. What are the characteristics of the Lanvin man?
We wanted to bring emotion and fragility back in menswear. Men’s fashion is based more on functional needs than women’s fantasy, but I feel that it’s missing the desire element. Lanvin is one of the last French houses still making made-to-measure suits with the French allure and the know-how. I wanted to reintroduce this heritage to a new generation of men in a modern way. I wanted to create a new wardrobe for men where he can find a white shirt with pearl buttons, or smoking shirts with diamond buttons with tulle bow ties.
Lanvin jewelry is always covetable and unique. We love the oversize cameos for your Pre Fall 2012 Collection. Any hints of what’s to come with your next jewelry collection?
I am very superstitious! You’ll just have to wait and see!
Get the new gilt-edged, 704-page book Lanvin (by Steidl publishing house) here: www.steidlville.com/books/1282-Lanvin.html