"I remember in 2000, when I was working at Yves Saint Laurent, I was on my way to the office and I saw Mr Saint Laurent walking his dog. It was the night before his haute couture show. I asked him how he was feeling and he said, ‘I’m very nervous and very stressed.’ I replied, 'Why, after all of these years, are you still stressed before a show?'. He responded, 'Because of all these years'. I didn't really understand at the time, but years later, I realised over time that when I was working on a collection, these were the same feelings I was experiencing. Season after season, we are going through this fear, this pain, this anxiety attack that we are all going to lose it. That we're not going to finish. That it's going to be terrible. And I don't know if we can do it any differently. I don’t know if design, art and creation is always coming from pain, or if it can come from beauty.
Everything has to be so fast and rapid these days. I feel that I am part of the marathon of fashion and I feel the constant pressure to produce bigger, better and faster, and these days, cheaper. I often think about how a musician can have a great career with 10 brilliant songs, a director with five films, and a writer, three books. Then a fashion designer has to do six to eight shows per year – if one works for 25 years, that's easily 200 shows.
For a long time I've wondered what it is that I bring to women, what it is that I do for them. And then one day I got an SMS from a friend in New York, which said: ‘Hi Alber, I’m in the back of a taxi, going to the court. I’m going to face my asshole husband in a divorce case and I’m wearing Lanvin, and I feel so protected'. That is one of the greatest compliments I've ever had. I thought that if a dress I had made in silk, weighing around 150g could protect a woman against her asshole husband, then I had succeeded. It made me very happy."
With only three weeks before the Paris collections kick off, it's unusual to see the designer of a leading French fashion house on the schedule of a London-based event. However, the ever-obliging Alber Elbaz took time out from designing his S/S12 Lanvin collection and joined Mike Figgis' curated Deloitte Ignite at the Royal Opera House this weekend. Alongside personalities including David Lynch, Marina Abramovic and Jon Snow, Lanvin's Elbaz shared his thoughts on the topic of honesty and truth.
The location of the talk changed at the last minute – a perfectionist who understands the importance of a backdrop, Elbaz had spotted a chandelier and mirrored room that he felt was much more appropriate. "I love this room", he said, "It feels comfortable and protective, like a dress should feel when you wear it. Without protection and comfort there is nothing in fashion." Smaller than the original room, the designer agreed to host two sittings to accommodate the large crowd. He opened with a screening of his A/W11 campaign film which has quickly become an internet sensation. Created in collaboration with Ronnie Cooke-Newhouse and Steven Meisel, the film references the countless dancing-in-front-of-the-webcam videos on YouTube. It features an amusing cameo from the designer – proof that he doesn't take himself to seriously and understands that sometimes, we all need a little light relief.
Invited to share his thoughts on truth and honesty, Elbaz revealed that he finds the idea of truth quite scary, "because it always hurts. I thought I should be negative and do a bit of complaining. Complaining after all seems to be very 'in' right now." His 45-minute talk however did not turn into a grumbling session, but instead saw him talk candidly, humorously and fondly of his role in the industry.
Text by Laura Bradley
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