Alber Elbaz, the charismatic creative director of Lanvin, is to leave the Parisian fashion house after 14 years at the helm.
News of Elbaz’s departure from the label, a red-carpet favourite of Natalie Portman, Kate Moss and Nicole Kidman, comes less than a week after Raf Simons revealed he would leave Dior after a three-and-a-half-year tenure.
There is already speculation as to whether Elbaz’s decision is linked to Simons’ departure. Rumours about Elbaz, 54, joining Dior have swirled since 2011, when John Galliano was famously fired following a racist outburst in a Paris cafe.
Under Elbaz, Lanvin has been a vision of luxury and femininity, in which comically-sized costume jewellery is paired with bright prints and ethereal cocktail dresses. As Vogue International’s Suzy Menkes put it: “Elbaz is every woman’s darling.”
While his work for Lanvin was traditional and feminine in keeping with Lanvin’s position as the oldest fashion house still in operation, Elbaz also had an eye on changing times. The designer was one of the first to collaborate with H&M, producing an elegant and accessible collection that turned Lanvin into a household name.
He is also notable as one of the first high-end designers to dress Kim Kardashian – now regarded as the celebrity most likely to drive fashion sales for a brand – and for producing the infamous Lanvin trainers that predated fashion’s love for athleisure.
In menswear, Elbaz became known for gently updating classic pieces with modern, luxurious touches in fabric and shape. His suits came with dreamy silhouettes; boxy with accentuated shoulders and dropped waists in unexpected fabrics.
The designer – known for his charisma, flair and couture-like approach to ready-to-wear – had a successful if disrupted career prior to Lanvin. Following an early placement at Guy Laroche, he went on to work at Yves Saint Laurent, and was expected to become its creative director when Saint Laurent retired.
Instead, Gucci bought the house and Tom Ford was appointed. He left the label and started working at Krizia in Italy; Ford’s appointment made him “feel like a widow”, he said. It was not until 2001, when Elbaz was brought in to head up Lanvin’s creative team, that he found his feet. During his stint at the fashion house, he has been universally praised.
The news comes during a period of musical chairs in fashion, with Simons’ departure preceded by Alexander Wang’s withdrawal from Balenciaga. The flurry of high-level moves has been interpreted by some as evidence of a conflict between the demands of a global fashion industry – which has an ever-increasing number of collections – and the needs of the over-stressed creatives who must design them.
Last week, at the 2015 Fashion Group International night of stars gala, Elbaz voiced his frustrations with the demands speed places on the creative industries: “I said: ‘I need more time.’ And I think everybody in fashion these days needs just a little more time.”
A Lanvin spokeswoman confirmed the designer’s exit as the house prepared an official statement. According to the fashion trade publication WWD, staff were told of the decision on Wednesday morning, and Elbaz has moved out of his Parisian headquarters.
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