Esteemed Fashion Designer Alber Elbaz Dies Aged 59

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Alber Elbaz in 2011
Alber Elbaz at an event in 2011Courtesy of the Royal Opera House

Elbaz, who was Lanvin’s creative director for 14 years, passed away this weekend after contracting Covid-19

Alber Elbaz, the much-loved fashion designer and former Lanvin creative director, has passed away aged 59. He reportedly died on Saturday at the American Hospital in Paris, after contracting Covid-19.

Born in Morocco and raised in Israel, Elbaz moved to New York in the 1980s to pursue a career in fashion. It was a steady but impressive trajectory: after a brief stint working at a bridal studio, he was hired by Geoffrey Beene, where he spent eight years working as a senior assistant. He was then scouted to become the creative director of Guy Laroche in 1996, which saw him relocate to Paris. Two years after that, the designer was handed the highly coveted reins of Yves Saint Laurent, where he remained for three seasons.

However, Elbaz was perhaps best known for his reinvigorating stint as the creative director of Lanvin. The designer joined the legendary French fashion house in 2001, and stayed for 14 years, until 2015. During that time, he refreshed and revolutionised the brand; prioritising easy, form-flattering designs and “zip-in, zip-out” accessibility. His cocktail dresses, in particular, were beloved in Hollywood, with Meryl Streep, Chloë Sevigny, Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker all devotees of Elbaz’s designs.

His openhearted approach to fashion, through the celebration of imperfection and inclusivity, was the key to his appeal. “When I ask people, ‘How are you?’ and they say, ‘Wonderful’, I’m not relating to them,” he told AnOther in 2015. “When the manicure is fresh, and everything is matching, and the husband is gorgeous, and the secretary is just a secretary ... and it’s just perfect, it doesn’t work. In design, it starts when you make mistakes, and when you are lucky, and you don’t have what you need to have, and have to find solutions. I like the idea of creating something out of nothing.”

After a brief hiatus from fashion, Elbaz had made a surprise return to the industry this year with his new label, AZ Factory. The brand, which launched in January, was created with size inclusivity in mind, promising “beautiful, practical, and solutions-driven” designs that work “for everyone”. 

AZ Factory was a joint venture between Elbaz and Compagnie Financière Richemont. In a statement announcing the designer’s passing, Richemont’s chairman, Johann Rupert, shared his “enormous sadness” at the news. “Alber had a richly deserved reputation as one of the industry’s brightest and most beloved figures,” he said. “His inclusive vision of fashion made women feel beautiful and comfortable by blending traditional craftsmanship with technology – highly innovative projects which sought to redefine the industry.”