The Life of Alber Elbaz

Paris Fashion Week closed with a stunning collaboration of designers honouring the late Alber Elbaz. Elbaz is widely recognized as a designer who was changing the face of fashion and whose designs made the luxury fashion market appealing to a broader breadth of women. 

Born on the 12th of June 1961 in Casablanca, Morocco, his family immigrated to Israel when he was eight months old. From a young age, Elbaz showed an interest in fashion, which was encouraged by his mother, who was a painter. He went on to study at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel. Shortly after graduating, he moved to America to further his studies and work in the industry. 

In 1984, Elbaz moved to New York City and started working for a boutique bridal dressmaker. He was introduced to American designer Geoffrey Beene, who he worked under as a senior assistant from 1989 – 1996. He then moved to lead the ready-to-wear collections at Guy Laroche. After one year, he was scouted to become the creative designer at Yves Saint Laurent. However, he was there for only three seasons until he was fired upon Gucci buying the company and replaced with Tom Ford. 

Elbaz is perhaps most famous for his time as the lead designer for Lanvin, which he began in 2001. During this time, Lanvin flourished, and profits continued to rise. He led numerous successful collaborations with brands such as Acne Studios, Lancôme and H&M. Unlike most creative designers, Elbaz was employed on a contracted basis; however, his designs were so popular that many thought his time at Lanvin would continue as long as possible. However, in 2015, Elbaz was surprising fired from Lanvin following a dispute with the majority shareholder about the company’s direction. 

After Lanvin, Elbaz collaborated with French perfumer Frédéric Malle. In 2017, they released a fragrance called Superstitious. After a five year break, in 20201, he launched his brand AZ Factory alongside Switzerland-based luxury goods holding company. AZ Factory illustrates Elbaz’s inclusive style that is made to appeal to all women. 

Elbaz has won many awards, including the International Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2005 and in 2007, he was awarded the Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur and named as one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world. He was awarded the Superstar Award from Fashion Group International and Officer of the Légion d’Honneur in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

In 2021, he died suddenly of Covid-19 in Neuilly-Sur-Seine, France. AZ Factory closed Paris Fashion Week with a show celebrating the life and style of Elbaz. The show featured designs from 44 houses and designers, including Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga, Maria Grazia Chiuri for Christian Dior, Kim Jones for Fendi, Guo Pei for Guo Pei, Alessandro Michele for Gucci, Antony Vaccarello for Yves Saint Laurent and Donatella Versace for Versace. 

Elbaz was one of the great designers who had a deep understanding of making luxury fashion for all women. His death was a significant loss to the fashion community, but Paris Fashion Week’s closing show was an apt celebration of his life’s work.