Alber Elbaz, head designer of Lanvin, youtube sensation and all-round lovely guy was in London this weekend to take part in the Deloitte Ignite festival, a series of talks and performances at the Royal Opera House, this year curated by film maker Mike Figgis.
Figgis and Elbaz, who collaborated on The Lanvin for H&M campaign video (you remember, the one in the hotel) were ‘in conversation’ on the topic of truth and fashion on Saturday night, where Alber opened up about the beginning of his career at Lanvin, saying that when he came to the house, ‘I found the heritage – I found the history, I found the tradition, and my job was to bring newness- when newness meets heritage, it becomes magic, that’s the alchemistry.’
Elbaz had worked at YSL for two years prior to starting at Lanvin, and was widely mooted to take over the reigns of YSL when Monsieur Saint Laurent retired, although that never came to fruition. In a scene we wish we had witnessed from the year 2000, Alber says that ‘I was walking towards my office, I was working at YSL – it was before I was fired – and I saw M Saint Laurent walking his dog, it was the night before his haute couture show… and I said, “M Saint Laurent how are you” and he said “I am very nervous, I’m very stressed” and I look at him and I said “why, after all these years are you still stressed before a show” and he looked at me and said “because of all these years.”
And I don’t think I got it at the time, but many years later… this is what I am going through... Season after season, we go through this fear – this pain, this anxiety attack, that we’re going to loose the standard, that it’s going to be terrible, that we’re going to be hanged, that the critics are going to kill us, and I don’t know why, I don’t know if we can do it differently, and I don’t know if design and art is always coming from pain, or if it can come from beauty.’
Alber, on behalf of critics everywhere, we are NOT going to kill you.
M Elbaz also talks about how he sees himself in the wider canon of designers, saying ‘Yves Saint Laurent gave women power; Chanel liberated them, and so for a long time I asked myself “what is it that I bring to women – what is it that I do for them?” And then one day I got an SMS from a friend of mine in New York, and she said “Hi Alber, I am in the back of a taxi, going to the court, going to face my a**hole husband in a divorce case, and I’m wearing Lanvin, and I feel so protected, I can face it better.” That was one of the biggest compliments I ever got in my life – I thought if I can make a dress in silk, and it weighs maybe 150 grams, and that can protect her in front of her a**hole husband - that thought made me very happy.’
- Alex Butt