“Alber, you were a genius”, “Thank you for making women so strong with your designs”, “For him, people were more important than money”: The news that was on Sunday on his Instagram account showed within minutes: Alber Elbaz, who died on Saturday at the age of 59 in the American Hospital in Neuilly near Paris of complications from Covid, was one of the most popular fashion designers. In fact, he was so nice and so popular that you could almost overlook his real accomplishments.
Responsible editor for the section “Germany and the World” and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin.
Alber Elbaz was a designer who was able to enchant women with his designs so that they believed they were new people. And with his communicative talent and engaging charisma, he was able to create new brands – which is more likely to be associated with dominant Tom Ford-type designers than with a dreamy man who loved drawing clothes even as a boy.
Alber Elbaz was born on June 12, 1961 to Moroccan-Jewish parents in Casablanca. His father was a hairdresser, his mother a painter. When he was ten, the family emigrated to Israel and he grew up in Holon, south of Tel Aviv. Because the father died early, the mother worked as a cashier to support her four children. After his military service he studied at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Ramat Gan. With 800 dollars, which his mother laboriously collected, he went to New York in 1985 – a city that was currently developing strongly in fashion. For seven years he worked for Geoffrey Beene, the great predecessor of Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors and all the others.
Successor to a great one
His star rose in Paris at the right time in the mid-1990s: John Galliano for Dior, Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Stella McCartney for Chloé, Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton – designers with an Anglo-American stamp were suddenly popular. Alber Elbaz went to Guy Laroche. He became known as a designer who did not stand for spectacular reinvention, but for elegant further development: good for a breath of fresh air, not for storms of indignation. That qualified him as the successor to a great one: on November 1, 1998, he joined Yves Saint Laurent, who from then on only dealt with haute couture and no longer with prêt-à-porter. But after three seasons it was over because Gucci took over the brand and Tom Ford was enthroned.
He was then able to work out his ideas at Lanvin, with wonderful draperies, large bows, funny details and dresses for which the dying word “feminine” still fit. From 2001 to 2015 he led the brand to a level of importance that it had not had since Jeanne Lanvin’s prime in the twenties and was never meant to be. When Elbaz stepped onto the catwalk at the end of the defile, always plump, always smiling, always wearing a bow tie, it rained tears.
After the abrupt end, Elbaz took a break. And after a brief collaboration with Tod’s, he didn’t start building a new line with the Richemont Group until January: AZ Factory. “I lost not just a colleague, but a beloved friend,” said Johann Rupert, the founder and boss of Richemont. Elbaz was “one of the brightest and most popular personalities in the industry”.