PARIS – When designer Alber Elbaz, who died of Covid-19 last spring, quit his longtime job as Lanvin’s creative director in 2015, he didn’t just jump straight into another brand. Instead, he took the time to explore other industries, meet new people, and think about what would make him truly happy. He had plenty of ideas.
One of them became AZ Factory, the new fashion, technology and entertainment business he launched with support from Compagnie Financière Richemont in January, just months before his death in April.
And another, which he never realized but which he always dreamed of, was to create what he sometimes called a traveling fashion theater, or a fashion circus, inspired by French fashion theater, a traveling exhibition of mini-mannequins in tailoring intended to promote the industry in the post-WWII era. Only he didn’t want to make his doll-sized version; he wanted to enlist a cohort of his designer peers to create “love, beauty and hope” (in the words of his 28-year-old partner, Alex Koo) by bringing their calling to the world for everyone to enjoy. take advantage.
Peer creators working together for the sake of love and hope? People patted him on the back and wished him good luck.
But Tuesday night in Paris, on the last night of Fashion Month, just five months after news of her death rocked the industry, it happened.
Forty-five designers from around the world gathered at Mr. Koo’s invitation to each make a unique outfit in memory of Mr. Elbaz, inspired by their relationship with the designer or their memories of him. With a collection from her final design team, the work made a fashion show, staged in front of her real family, who came from Israel, and her fashion family. Not as a memorial, but as a celebration.
Rick Owens was there, talking to Jean Paul Gaultier. Just like Daniel Roseberry from Schiaparelli and Maria Grazia Chiuri from Dior. Antoine Arnault and Sidney Toledano of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton were seated with Philippe Fortunato of Richemont (who helped direct the night), François-Henri Pinault of Kering and Diego Della Valle of Tod’s. Demi Moore and her daughter, Scout Willis, were nearby. Just like Brigitte Macron, the first lady of France.
Around them circulated waiters with champagne and multicolored éclairs, as Mr. Elbaz believed in food and hospitality (although he was worried about his weight). The entrance to the event was carpeted with some of his favorite sayings. “When nothing goes right, goes left” being the quintessential.
If his words were on the walls, however, his image was stamped on the clothes.
Sometimes literally, as in the case of Dries Van Noten, who made a crimson coat from a techno material developed with the AZ Factory collaborators of Mr. Elbaz, and Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, who made a mini white satin dress with large crystal studs pouches: both incorporated the caricatures Mr. Elbaz used to draw of himself on notes and invitations.
But sometimes the connection was more abstract.
There was a lot of bright pink, Mr. Elbaz’s signature color, as in the ruffled silk float by Pierpaolo Piccioli from Valentino, the giant nylon taffeta bubble from Demna Gvasalia from Balenciaga and the leather bubble from Nicolas Ghesquière. by Louis Vuitton. Big boa-constricting ruffles, like the tulle ruffles that Tomo Koizumi wrapped around his little black dress. Funny Charlie Chaplin costumes and bow ties, which was Mr. Elbaz’s uniform, played by Ralph Lauren (who also made a Teddy Bear sweater, as Mr. Elbaz was famous for his hugs) and deconstructed into a dress by Rosie Assoulin, the New York designer who had previously been Mr. Elbaz’s intern.
And there were hearts, because Mr. Elbaz signed everything with a heart, like in Guram Gvasalia’s pajamas from Vetements. Ms. Chiuri embroidered “I love you” in script on her ball gown.
It was a reminder that Mr. Elbaz had that often rare thing in fashion: a personal, identifiable design signature and a body of work so fertile that he would live on as creative fodder for others (rumor has it that the dresses could be part of a traveling exhibition, as Mr. Elbaz hoped). But also that his work was not the only impact he had.
The title of the evening was “Love Brings Love,” which was pretty much Mr. Elbaz’s motto in life. He believed that if he saw the good in others, they would prove to live up to the expectation.
For that evening in Paris, the fashion world erased the stereotype of a competitive and elitist industry, and proved it right. If it’s not so much a moment as a recalibration, his dream will truly have come true.