Right before his unceremonious and grievous dismissal after a 14-year stint at Lanvin, Alber Elbaz was busy issuing his manifesto in both spoken, written, and design form. Little did he know at the time that the powerful collection he presented for Spring/Summer 2016 would be his last. At this rate, the fashion industry is chewing up and spitting out the creative class with a shocking rapidity, and as the roulette wheel spins at yet another maison we are left bewildered by it all. Elbaz’s departure comes a mere week after the announcement that Raf Simons was leaving Dior – the two share the common cause of being tender, considered geniuses stricken down by the mounting pressures of the fashion industry.
The most disheartening fact is that Elbaz has contributed so much to the industry whose upside-down economic structure eventually placed him at odds with it in the larger context of bottom-line business. He was the man behind gauzy Grecian goddess gowns and dual-purpose dressing (like detachable collars and cuffs or dresses that transformed organically from day to evening by letting down trains clipped into the back). He was doing fedoras in 2002, slip dresses in 2004, foiled brocade in 2005, experimental textiles in 2007, fringe in 2008, and major ruffles in 2009 – looks which are being sold to us now on a multitude of other runways as “the next big thing”. It’s striking to look back on his designs from over a decade ago and realize how incredibly current they still are, how they are still the kind of clothes that women wear today. There’s not a dated look in the bunch.
His archetypal muses remained the same over the years – the high-fashion goth, the ballerina, the goddess – but at the bottom of it all his consistency could be found in the simple fact that, for every design he ever touched, he considered one thing: making clothes for real women that would make them look and feel beautiful. It is a simple proposition on which to rest one’s thesis, but Elbaz’s body of work would be nothing without it. He was perpetually and genuinely concerned with how to exalt the female form. Fashion’s intrinsic built-in obsolescence never once applied to Lanvin under his careful watch.