Alber Elbaz, Beloved Fashion Designer, Is Dead at 59

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Survivors include a brother and two sisters as well as his partner, Alex Koo.

In New York, Mr. Elbaz became the assistant designer of Geoffrey Beene. He then moved to Paris in 1996 to become the head of prêt-à-porter design at Guy Laroche — until two years later Yves Saint Laurent himself chose Mr. Elbaz to take over as his heir, designing the women’s Rive Gauche ready-to-wear collections for YSL.

That dream, however, was short-lived, as Gucci Group bought the brand in 1999 and Mr. Elbaz was soon fired in favor of Tom Ford. It was a crushing blow for the designer and started him on his journey questioning fashion.

In 2001, however, he met Shaw-Lan Wang, a Taiwan-based Chinese-born former media mogul, who was part of a consortium that had purchased Lanvin, and he convinced her, he said, to “awake the sleeping beauty.” Their partnership led to an aesthetic flowering, as Mr. Elbaz experimented with dresses made from a single seam, and clothes that managed to be both generous and elegant, straddling the line between classicism and modernism.

“Alber would always tell me, ‘I am just a dressmaker’,” said Ms. Wintour of Vogue. “He was, if by that we mean someone who had the enviable ability to make something women would love to wear — and an incredible instinct for how they would want to feel when they were wearing it.”

In 2005 he received the International Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and in 2007 was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

Nevertheless, aside from a hit sneaker, he never quite managed to create the It bag that could power a brand forward in a world driven by accessories, and after increasing clashes with Madame Wang over the future of Lanvin, to the shock of the industry, he was fired.

For the next five years he wandered the world, taking meetings in Silicon Valley and Switzerland, dipping in and out of collaborations with brands such as Tod’s and Le Sportsac, and trying to decide what to do next. In 2016, he became an Officier of the Légion d’Honneur.


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