Paris fashion week ended in a sorrowful way, as designers, and fashion insiders, such as Hamish Bowles, Farida Khelfa, Jean-Paul Gauthier, Michèle Lamy, Daniel Roseberry, Dame Vivienne Westwood, and even the French first lady, Brigitte Macron, came together to celebrate Alber Elbaz’s legacy. In his honour, his long-time partner Alex Koo composed a fashion show based on Alber’s dream of gathering the best talents in the industry, an idea the Israeli designer got from “Théâtre de la mode” a Parisian project that took place in 1945. The show started with Koo’s monologue while lights reflecting Elbaz’s logo for his namesake label, AZ Factory danced on the dark runway, as he repeated Alber’s mantra “love brings love”. He then described the designers’ personality, how all who ever met him instantly cherished him because of his kindness, humor and generosity. Then, the room turned pitch black, followed by a spotlight on a wall, and we could read in bold letters: AZ Factory by Alber Elbaz. And just like that, the show started with a classic long-sleeved black dress, a puffy shawl wrapped around the arms, that added a sense of grandiose to the outfit, while the model wore layers of pearl necklaces, a black veil and sleek cornrows.
The AZ factory look was the opening of a show that stood for togetherness and collaboration, as 45 designers presented a look inspired by Elbaz’s body of work in fashion, whether it was from his years at Yves Saint Laurent or Lanvin. Some brands like Balenciaga, Valentino unveiled looks in Elbaz’s favorite color, pink, while others opt for heart-shaped embroidery like Alaïa, or Vetements with the all-over printed hearts on a silk tracksuit. Like Koo mentioned in the intro, Alber allowed us to dream the impossible, but mostly dressed us for our special moments. So it was no surprise that the collection had an explosion of colors, textures, fringes and shimmers; everything he loved and incorporated into his work. Simple items like bows, tuxedos, and the designer’s face were also elements that creative directors chose in order to pay homage to Elbaz. Our favorite was Dries Van Noten’s bold red dress-coat with an embroidered drawing of Alber on one side. Even the famous “Love” necklace of his Lanvin Fall 2013 collection made an appearance, through the Balmain look by Olivier Rousteing, but in bright green. Burberry’s look by Riccardo Tisci, a silk golden bronze one sleeve, asymmetrical draped dress perfectly embodied the late designer’s tenure at Lanvin, especially with the model’s walk, who reminded us of how much Alber loved celebrating women. Their tenacity, femininity, and frankly, he knew how to create gowns that would help a lady make a proper entrance!
The soundtrack of the runway show was also fitting, as songs such as “Bésame Mucho” and “As I love you” played in the background. All while some designers presented clothes that were visibly on brand for them, but with a hint of inspiration from Alber, which would probably get his stamp of approval. Virgil Abloh was one of them, as he showcased a green crepe one-shoulder dress that was attached at the shoulder by a pink object that resembled a paper clip, paired with black sunglasses and a velvet baseball cap in the same green colour. Rick Owens followed in a similar direction with the salmon hoodie silk dress that had both a cape and a train. And Jean-Paul Gaultier’s cocktail dress, of satin and velour in a Bordeaux colour, had 3-D cut hearts around the bustier and was worn by none other than Anna Cleveland. However, it was the American designer Rosie Assoulin’s look that perhaps had the most ingenuity: a black and gold strapless top paired with a trompe-à-l’œil tuxedo skirt. The waistband was shaped like a white shirt collar, with a red velvet bow placed on top, and the sleeves of the tuxedo were also attached at the waist.
A second collection started with the melancholic song, “Daydreams” by Abel, but was perfect for the circumstances to mark the end of the show. This time, pieces from Alber’s team were highlighted with ruffles, catsuits, peplum, a yellow silk flowy négligé, all with an excessive amount of accessories that we enjoyed. The late designer’s treasured colours were applied through a black jumpsuit with the ruffled draped sleeves that enveloped the model’s neckline. Body positivity was also a key element of this collection, as models of all shapes and sizes were present. And we foresee that the black tracksuit with the ruffle collar, paired with the pink coat and black tulle embroidery with the red heart, is the look everyone will wish for this fall. Amber Valletta closed the show wearing a black coat ensemble with cigarette pants and a big dark burgundy bow tie to finish the look. The coat’s hem had colourful embroideries, representing a group of people in the front while the back was gold fireworks. The supermodel saluted the crowd as Alber would, with her left foot slightly pointed and a gentle smile. As the lights turned off, an image of Alber appeared with a voice-over, screaming, “I Love You”. A black curtain fell to the ground, while red petals were seen falling from the roof and all the models from the previous collection stood in square-like windows and danced to celebrate the finale. It was indeed a moving love letter from the industry to Alber. His spirit and his appreciation for his peers were palpable and we’re certain that he would have loved it.
Alber Elbaz was a designer who, even in the second act of his career, made us dream! But he too had a dream, and on the last night of fashion month in the city of lights, where it all started, thanks to Alex Koo, it came true! Elbaz’s vision was always about promoting creativity, prestige and solidarity whilst celebrating love, beauty and hope. It was never about his ego, but about making his customer feel beautiful and empowered. He was talented and his medium was fashion; he loved it but always treated it as his job, although it was his purpose in life. His time at Lanvin will always be the most memorable for the brand and he forever changed the way we see clothes and sensuality. With a bittersweet but heartwarming goodbye, the fashion industry gave the late designer a meaningful farewell that was well deserved. The homage was a true testament to how much he was loved and how much he will be missed.