Alber Elbaz in Oman on why fashion is confused today
Star designer Alber Elbaz fired arrows at the fashion industry at a luxury conference in Oman on Wednesday, pointing to confusion, excessive fear, high-pressure and general unhappiness in the industry.
Elbaz, who made his debut at Guy Laroche and Yves Saint Laurent, is known for having resuscitated Lanvin, France’s oldest fashion brand, when he was at its creative helm for 14 years.
His brutal sacking in 2015 shocked the fashion world and since, the designer has been licking his wounds, reflecting on what he could do next and holding on-and-off talks with various investors about potential creative projects, industry sources have said.
Lanvin, which analysts believe had the potential to be France’s answer to Italy’s success story Valentino, hired French designer Bouchra Jarrar last year to replace Elbaz but dipped into loss after orders dried up from major markets such as the United States and Russia.
Elbaz reacted at the conference to the exponential multiplication of collections on which big fashion brands such as Gucci, Chanel and Dior have embarked to grab headlines and generate traffic in their stores, in trying to address competition from fast-fashion brands such as Zara and H&M.
“Every time I speak with my fashion family, I only hear complaints,” Elbaz told the Conde Nast International luxury conference in Muscat, Oman. “Too many shows, too many collections. Moscow fashion week? No wait, it's India fashion week. Too much confusion, which season are we seeing now? Fall/Winter? Spring/Summer? No, it's Resort. No, it’s Cruise 2017. And just more, and more, and it’s endless. How come nobody’s happy? Too much fear, and not enough love.”
Several big fashion brands have been stung in recent years by a slump in luxury spending and competition from small, Internet-savvy brands that cater to consumers’ appetite for more exclusive, artisanal labels. Elbaz criticized the fashion industry’s lack of audacity and risk-taking in the current tough economic environment.
“When we create, we must first begin with a dream, and an intuition. Marketing comes later, not before. Yes, I know that using intuition is risky. Yes, I know that making a mistake can be very costly. And the shareholders might fire you for the mistake. But, we all know some of the best innovations in the history happened because people trusted their intuitions and went for it,” Elbaz told the conference. He then moved on to what the role of a fashion designer is today.
“My psychiatrist once asked me, if women today can buy a new face, new lips, new boobs, new butt, new hair, new skin, and God knows what else, maybe the body is the new dress. Maybe that’s the reason why there are so many jobless designers. And if the body is the new dress, what is the role for us, designers? To dress? Or to undress?” Elbaz asked the crowd at the luxury conference.
This year, Elbaz has collaborated with Converse in Japan to launch a new premium sneaker line, 'Avant Converse.' He is also launching a perfume called Superstitious that he helped create for the French perfume house Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle, a niche perfume brand, part of U.S. cosmetics giant Estée Lauder since 2014. Elbaz worked with perfume creator or "nose" Dominique Ropion, who is behind Frederic Malle's best-selling scents. The fragrance created with Elbaz marks the second time Frédéric Malle has worked with a designer, having collaborated with Belgium's Dries van Noten in 2013.
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