Alber Elbaz On His Lanvin Anniversary, YouTube and the Importance of Sandwiches

Alber Elbaz
Photo: Patrick McMullan
Alber Elbaz.

We should all aspire to find jobs we love as much as Alber Elbaz loves being the creative director of Lanvin. “Every morning at 9 o’clock I go home,” the designer tells Miles Socha of Women's Wear Daily in an interview today.

The bow-tied Frenchman—who will celebrate his tenth anniversary with Lanvin at tomorrow's show—isn't sentimental about anniversaries, but he does have fond memories of his beginnings at the legendary house. "When I looked at the archives; the one word that came to me back and forth was 'desire'...I said, “You know we are going to make collections for women, we are going to actually emphasize the desire, the desire in fashion, the desire in design.”

He adds that he strives to make his pieces wearable—witness his cult-favorite ballet flats and loose, second-helping-friendly frocks: "I always say, “If you can’t eat it, it’s not food, and if you can’t wear it, it’s not fashion, it is something else.'"

Then there's Lanvin's advertising. Spearheaded by art director Ronnie Cooke Newhouse, it has become influential, with models dancing, leaping and even catfighting, in contrast to the typical static poses. Elbaz explains his and Newhouse's collaborative process thusly: "We don’t just say, 'Take a beautiful girl and a great makeup artist, and keep it clean.'...I don’t like it clean; I like it dirty! I like something beyond just a beautiful girl wearing the best dress and the best makeup. I want something else. I think in luxury a lot of times, the consensus is that you have to be very glossy, and I think that a lot of time, people think it has to be very cold in order to be respected. I think that you can be you in order to be respected."

For his fall 2011 ads, where he made a cameo breaking it down to Pitbull, Elbaz watched YouTube dance videos for inspiration, and said that their Dougie-ing subjects "always look very human and that is what makes it funny. It will make you cry and laugh, because humanity makes you cry and laugh because you can relate to it. And that is my whole philosophy, that they need to relate to it and that when they come to the store, I don’t want them to feel like in a pharmacy, that everything is there and please don’t touch it. I want them to touch it."

Most importantly, the down-to-earth designer proves that he understands our plight: "I always think if I were an editor and I was invited to a show and I [had] to wait for 45 minutes in the dark or in the cold or in the heat, maybe I would like to have a fresh drink or a piece of chocolate. Maybe I would love to enjoy a sandwich." (Alber: we sure would. Thanks for getting it.)