In the world of fashion where air kisses are often meaningless, the design community banded together on Tuesday and paid tribute to Alber Elbaz, who died of COVID-19 in April, aged 59. With contributions from Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, Burberry and Christian Dior, the final show of Paris Fashion Week was a lingering French kiss to the designer who single-handedly revived the house of Lanvin.
Elbaz’s peers and admirers created moving pieces through the filter of the immediately recognisable designer, with his shrunken suits, portly figure and bow ties. Unlike this year’s Met Gala, where the theme In America: A Lexicon of Fashion produced disparate results, such as Kim Kardashian wearing a black hood and pop singer Kim Petras in a horse head, this was what is described among front-row denizens as a “moment”.
Fresh from his success at Balenciaga’s groundbreaking show featuring The Simpsons, Demna Gvasalia created a voluminous gown in Elbaz’s favourite pink with signature bows while Stella McCartney’s pleated metallic gold dress resurrected the brand of Lanvin glamour that dominated the noughties.
Both Ralph Lauren and Anthony Vaccarello at Saint Laurent (where Elbaz had taken over from the house’s founder in 1998, before being replaced by Tom Ford in 2000 and moving to Lanvin in 2001) sent out models in updated versions of his runway uniform.
Viktor & Rolf and Jean Paul Gaultier riffed on red hearts, another familiar motif of the Moroccan-born, Israeli-raised Elbaz, against a sombre backdrop.
The dramatic show, called Love Brings Love, borrowed its structure from a 1945 Paris exhibition, Théâtre de la Mode, where 60 designers celebrated the end of World War II but was purely Elbaz. At the beginning, guests including Naomi Campbell and Vivienne Westwood milled on the runway, enjoying snacks and drinks, a welcome tradition introduced by Elbaz during his Lanvin tenure. I wish I had kept a biscuit in a cartoon figure of the designer from a Lanvin show, but like everyone in fashion, I was hungry.
In an interview with American Vogue, designer Gabriella Hearst who took part in the tribute as creative director for Chloé, remembered, “He was modern in his attitude of understanding that the most démodé thing was to be a snob.”
After being fired from Lanvin in 2015, following disagreements with the brand’s Chinese media magnate owner Shaw-Lan Wang, Elbaz took a break from the fashion industry, only returning this year with the backing of luxury group Richemont, launching the more democratic AZ Factory label.