The Industry Reacts to Alber Elbaz’s Passing

Alber Elbaz, who died Saturday age 59, was one of the most popular figures in the fashion industry, striking up friendships with his fellow designers, actresses, editors, retail executives and industry titans alike.

On Sunday, they expressed shock and sorrow over the loss of a great design talent and an inspiring personality. Here’s what they told WWD:

Bernard Arnault: “With the sudden passing of Alber Elbaz, the fashion industry has lost a bright and sensitive designer. His creativity, both irreverent and elegant, has left a long-lasting mark in fashion. He breathed renewed and vibrant life into one of the oldest and most iconic French heritage brands.”

François-Henri Pinault: “It is with profound sadness that I have learned of the passing of a dear friend, Alber Elbaz. He was a man appreciated by all, for his humanity and exceptional humor. He was also a creative genius admired for his style that brought together femininity with modernity.”

Giorgio Armani: “It is with great sadness that I learn of the death of Alber Elbaz: one of the few professionals remaining in the world of fashion; a creative capable of making women beautiful, always and in any way. We met, I don’t remember in which airport, and he stopped me to congratulate me on my work and he seemed absolutely sincere. His ability to reinvent a certain kind of woman will be missed.”

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Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior: “Alber’s career was extraordinary in its complexity, but undoubtedly one of his most important contributions to fashion has been to imagine and create an interpretation of glamor that was cultured, feminine, fun, human. Alber designed with people in mind. And for all of us creative directors who face the heritage of a brand on a daily basis, how he re-activated the history of Maison Lanvin is still an extraordinary lesson, his delicate and irreverent inventions, his ability to make the atmospheres and the fashion of a storied brand contemporary. I remember a special dinner at Le Meurice with Alber and my mother. During that evening, they were incredibly in tune with one another, they chatted without any interruption. The next day, my mother received a bouquet of beautiful flowers from Alber. She then made sure I would send him her home-made jams. This is how I like to remember him: In an intimate way, as part of my family.”

Ralph Lauren: “Alber was such a kind man, so generous and humble. Whenever we met either at special events or running into each other on the street – he always greeted me with such warmth, and we laughed like old friends. As a designer I loved how he really cared about women – making them feel beautiful and comfortable. Lately he was concerned that fashion was getting too loud, and he said he preferred ‘whispering.’ His whisperings will continue to be heard in the beauty of what he created and how he lived.”

Pierpaolo Piccioli, Valentino: “The world of fashion has lost one of its biggest treasure and I’ve lost a true, honest, special friend. When I made my first step as a creative director, he welcomed me as no other did. He was able to infuse his soul into his work by creating an aesthetic that spoke so loudly of his colorful, sparkling, and intense joie de vivre. I will miss him, but I will find relief by admiring the legacy of his work that will remind all of us how huge his talent was and how his vision of beauty, his human approach to fashion will always remain peerless. Ciao Alber, keep on inspiring all of us. Thank you for all you have done. It will stay with us.”

Stella McCartney: “I am so saddened by this shocking loss. Alber was a one-off genius… a creator in every sense of the word. He was, first and foremost, one of the sweetest, cheekiest, playful and kindest people I have met. But he was also one of the greatest talents fashion has had the privilege of experiencing. His work will live on forever… he will live in our hearts forever… to be sadly sadly missed. This is heartbreaking news.”

Rick Owens: “Truly sad. His warmth and exquisite hand and light touch will leave a big hole in this industry. He lived in my neighborhood and we hung out on my terrace eating homemade persimmon cookies my mom would ship to me. Every time I would run into him on our street, he would always rhapsodize over them. I am sorry my mom never had the chance to meet him.”

Maria Grazia Chiuri, Alber Elbaz and Pierpaolo Piccioli Stephane Feugere/WWD

Tommy Hilfiger: “Alber Elbaz became a friend in the 90’s. I loved his sense of humor but mostly his down-to-earth demeanor. I adored his transformation of Lanvin but more than that his verbal description of how he listened to the consumer and actually cared was inspiring. I vividly remember him speaking about all of this while wearing his signature oversized black solid bow tie. He will be missed by so many friends and fans who worshiped him. It is a sad day.”

Jean Paul Gaultier: “Alber was very talented, and he knew very well how to understand and dress women for so many years! And before leaving us, he dreamed up and created a concept collection, adapted to the new worldWell done and thank you Alber!”

Christian Louboutin: “Alber was a free spirit and a beautiful soul! Not only was he thinking and acting ‘outside the box,’ but his dedication to his work was total. He worshiped fashion when it represented excellence, creativity and real points of view. In that sense, he was and will remain a role model for me and so many others. …Dear Alber, you will not only be remembered as a fantastic, one-of-a-kind couturier, but also as a truly nice guy!”

Dries Van Noten: “A bright light, stellar peer and ebullient talent. Alber’s legacy will prevail in fashion history. Our world has dimmed on his passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Alex [Koo] and all of Alber’s family, friends and colleagues.”

José Neves, founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Farfetch: “We are unbelievably sad and shocked that Alber has died. He was inspiring and inspired, and brought to all of his work his talent, warmth, intelligence and humor. His designs made women feel empowered and joyful – both in his work at Lanvin, and more recently with AZ Factory, which we were so honored to have launched with him. The fashion community will miss him terribly and we send love to everyone who knew him.”

Anna Dello Russo: “He was a true fashion designer and also among the first to talk about inclusivity in fashion as he embraced all kinds of women regardless of their personality, body shape and age. He was an avant-garde designer with a sharp vision and was also a skilled communicator, using drawings and comic strips that were digital-friendly even before the digital medium gained steam. On top of that he was a man with a great sense of humor and humanity, and he was incredibly friendly and empathetic. He always made you feel at ease, you could spend hours talking to him, touching on different subjects and feel at his same level. At his Lanvin shows, in the front row, our first names were usually penned on the chairs, creating a sense of familiarity because it was not about our job title or our surname. It made you feel welcomed as if you were sitting at his home’s dining table.”

Linda Fargo, senior vice president of the fashion office and store presentation for Bergdorf Goodman: “As soon as you hear the name Alber Elbaz, there is an unanimous feeling of warmth and job, and dare I say – love! A reaction rarely felt in absolute unity in an often divided industry. Losing Alber so suddenly is a blow and deep loss both to the industry, the very future of it, and to all of us who were lucky enough to be in his extraordinary orbit. We can’t ask more from a designer than to change the course of style, create desire, enhance our lives, and create what didn’t exist before. Alber gave us all of the above. He loved us women – ALL types, sizes and varietals of beauty. I think he was very sensitive about ideas of beauty and self-acceptance, as he himself struggled with issues of self love, so he worked it out to a great degree on all his lucky friends and clients. He lived through a lot of professional hurts, but was ultimately triumphant! His tenure at Lanvin was unparalleled. His shows were perhaps the most anticipated of the four-city marathon – they were always a beautiful circus! Always playful, unexpected but also    full-on striking fashion at its best! His unique mix of riffs on couture elements with raw details stood out. Even though he was Moroccan/Israeli, there was something about his work which was ultimately Parisian, especially for the storied Lanvin. It was a huge misstep for that house to have lost him. They never recovered. I’m not sure we will ever quite recover from losing him either, and just as he was on the cusp of his next chapter with the much anticipated AZ Factory. He would have helped to reshape the way forward with more inclusive, more sustainable, less disposable design which would finally break some of the traps and harmful industry practices. Alber was extra sensitive and intelligent. You could always count of him for a fresh take on wisdom. Once he said to me, during the height and frenzy of Lanvin – “I don’t ever want to be an it-girl, because as soon as you’re an it-girl, you’re an out-girl.” And of course he was right. This is a painful reckoning today, to think we won’t see him again in those glasses, his new beach boy hair, his hands humbly pushing into his pockets, and to not hear what more he would have to teach and show us…I think I join an entire industry in saying goodbye with a very heavy heart, weighted down by our love for him.”

Tom Ford: “I am deeply shocked and saddened to hear of Alber’s death. Stunned really. He was a completely wonderful person and a great and talented designer. A true gentleman. Kind, funny, clever and someone that I was always happy to see. In fact, I think that most people were always happy to see Alber as he had a genuine warmth about him. He was be greatly missed.”

Donna Karan:  “He was so, so special. Really beyond special. He was a love and brilliantly talented. I am in shock. He was funny, he was light,  and he was Mr. Fashion.  I’ll never forget his [Lanvin] windows and  mannequins. He had such a personal touch. He was not “Do Not Touch Me,” he was a guy you just wanted to hug. He had such style – his short pants, his funky hair, he made fashion light and he did it with such integrity. I was proud of what was going to happen next and a new dimension.”

Michael Kors: “Alber was a brilliant talent, fully committed to making women feel their best. Hysterically funny, smart, and entertaining, he understood the balance between theater and reality. I ran into him and his partner Alex very late one night while they installed the windows at the new Lanvin store in Milan. We laughed and said, ‘it’s all about he details and the joy you find in the work.’ My thoughts are with Alex and all the people who were so enriched by knowing Alber and the women he dressed.”

Diane von Furstenberg: “I met Alber when he was an assistant to Geoffrey Beene. I had to go to a wedding in London and he (Alber really) made me a pale green gingham silk coat with a halter dress. It was very beautiful and unexpected. I later got to know him better. Many years later he also told me that he came to me for an interview for a job, but I have no recollection. My loss. He was a very talented designer, very detail oriented and made very pretty clothes. He shall be missed.”

Gabriela Hearst:  “The genuine outpouring of love that is springing out in our industry is a testament of his generosity. We lost an inclusive, kind and exceptional talent – an example of how we should treat each other.”

Tracy Margolies, chief merchant at Saks Fifth Avenue: “Alber was not only a creative spirit who transformed the house of Lanvin with his immense talent, but also a dear friend of Saks. His sense of humor, kind heart and gentle soul will be sorely missed.”

Ken Downing, Triple Five’s chief creative officer and former senior vice president/ fashion director at Neiman Marcus:   “Alber was all heart, love and light. There are no words that can begin to express the enormity of his exceptional and rare talent. It will always be Alber’s gentle spirit and enormous heart, that will be my strongest memory of him. A heart that flowed through his hands into his work, his words and his endless energy that touched everyone he encountered. Alber knew no strangers. An Alber show was always an epic of glamour and joie de vivre, a seduction of the senses that delighted all, but more remarkable than the creativity of the catwalk was the overwhelming, pure rapture and enthusiasm that erupted when Alber appeared to take his bow. This was not polite applause, this was unbridled, uncontrollable love for Alber. Alber was a rock star. The adoring crowds of press, retailers and clients that waited what often seemed an eternity to share in his joy after a show  were a constant reminder he was far more than a designer of dreams, he has touched them all like a friend. In his always bustling showroom, the appearance of Alber (and not uncommon) brought everyone to their feet, everyone wanted to be in the glow of Alber.  Alber, a gentle soul who was truly loved by so, so many, he will be truly missed.”

Madison Cox, president of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent: “It’s very sad that with the disappearance of Alber Elbaz, the craft of fashion has lost one of the few clear and concise and intelligent voices. Elbaz always created to serve women in a contemporary modern context rather than serving himself or what so many do which is cut and paste. His spirit of joy and innovation will remain. On behalf of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Lauren and the entire équipe, I extend our most heartfelt condolences to his partner and family.”

Marylou Luther: “As I wipe away the tears, here, in is own words, says it all about Alber.  (This is a quote he gave me for the book I’m working on) “When we designers became creative directors we had to become image makers. We had to make sure everything looks good in pictures. The screen has to scream, baby. So loudness became the new thing. Loudness is the new, new, and not only in fashion. I prefer whispering. I think it goes deeper and lasts longer.’ May his whispers be heard forever.”

Sandy Schreier, fashion historian and collector:  “Whenever I hear those words: ‘passion for fashion,’ I will always think of Alber…sweet, kind and, oh so passionate!”

Andrew Burnstine, associate professor at Lynn University’s College of Business and Management, who is the grandson of Martha’s founder and chairwoman Martha Phillips: “Martha [Phillips] did a trunk show in her Park Avenue salon with Geoffrey Beene in the mid 1980s. Alber accompanied Geoffrey on one of the first days of the show. When one customer asked Geoffrey if he could make a particular evening  dress for an upcoming affair, Alber sketched something that was so exquisite, that both the customer and Martha ordered the dress. Geoffrey later included the dress as an addition to that year’s collection.”

Herve Pierre, designer and stylist: “I am just thinking of all the people who loved him, and how the world of fashion is under the darkest black clouds that we haven’t seen since Alexander McQueen died. I cannot find the words…devastating.”

Sue Nabi, chief executive officer of Coty Inc.: “You have been a great friend, a great man, an outstanding artist and a genius. You were an all forms of beauty lover and a pioneer. Moreover, a very caring human and part of the family. We will miss you… Rest in peace, my friend. Hand in hand forever.”



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