Alber Elbaz Pushes the Envelope
By Laurie Brookins
“I’m not a gambler,” says Alber Elbaz when I ask if we’ll see him in Las Vegas anytime soon.
Yet while Elbaz may have little interest in making a pass-line bet or putting it all on red, his work as Lanvin’s artistic director proves he’s rarely content to play it safe. Given a signature aesthetic that employs artful draping, his love of asymmetry, and his desire to always keep the house and his vision moving in a forward-thinking direction, one might infer that Elbaz is indeed a gambling man. More accurately, perhaps, he simply possesses the right combination of passion and assuredness to know when a particular idea is absolutely right.
You see this devotion to cunning design mixed with playfulness while perusing Lanvin’s boutique at Crystals at CityCenter, from the sumptuous dresses that seem tailor-made for a sophisticated evening on the Strip to the whimsical sketches he’ll craft for a notebook or a tote bag. It’s an opulent-meets-fanciful vibe that is perfect for a fantasy-based city like Las Vegas. Hence our own conviction that, if not the games, surely he must love the shows, the restaurants, the pure dazzle of it all.
For the moment, alas, he doesn’t have the time. At the Paris-based house he has made white-hot since coming aboard in 2001, Elbaz has grown accustomed to a nonstop pace, and Vegas has eluded him since the store opened here in 2010. He is quick to admit, however, that he wouldn’t mind indulging in a pause. “But it’s like I have 20 children and they all want my attention,” he says of Lanvin’s boutiques around the globe (the Crystals location is among seven US stores). “I love traveling for work, though, because it’s my best chance to meet the people on the floor who sell our clothes and the clients who buy our clothes. I love meeting all these different men and women—younger, older, skinny, not so skinny. They teach me so much about what I do every day.”
Elbaz thrives on the idea of evolution, on not allowing any aspect of his work to become stagnant, and the pieces in Lanvin’s Crystals boutique are great examples of this. His Spring 2013 collection, for instance, showcases a particularly clever use of color blocking, as well as a deft hand with dresses that seem effortlessly spun from origami folds and panels. But be sure to look beyond the runway pieces, as Elbaz also favors a big-picture view and likes to cast aside traditional notions of the fashion calendar’s seasons. “About five years ago, I started doing little capsule collections to change a little bit the way we shop,” he says, “because I just thought that today’s new collection is tomorrow’s old collection.” He points to a travelfriendly grouping of easy (and easily packable) dresses, jackets, and yoga pants in jersey, and a capsule collection for children that allows Las Vegas tykes to sport the luxe Lanvin aesthetic. A bridal capsule collection—“a little corner with some stylish dresses in white or ivory,” Elbaz says—seems an especially good bet, considering that, of the roughly two dozen friends and clients for whom he has designed custom bridal gowns over the years, “every one of them has stayed married.”
Moving forward, you’ll see the evolution continue as Elbaz explores placing greater emphasis on separates, starting with the pre-Fall collection that will arrive at Crystals in June, with its focus on luscious, Vegas-friendly leathers in jackets and skirts and some standout leopard prints, each rooted in his desire to “take the comfort of American fashion and separates but bring the know-how of French craft and fabrics and embroideries.”
And while he’ll never cease delighting in change, no matter what new ideas Elbaz undertakes—an origami-inspired runway collection, some easy jersey dresses for jet-setters, or even mascara (created through a partnership with Lancôme and set for release this summer)—you can be certain he will weave them through highly personal notions of what’s next for fashion. “Luxury has always been about the dream, hasn’t it? And I am a dreamer,” he says. “The most important thing in our métier is to be able to feel things. My job is to feel and to think and to mix between the two. That’s the essence of design.” Lanvin, Crystals, CityCenter, 702-982-0245