Alber Elbaz, Fashion Designer, Dies of Covid at 59

Alber Elbaz, an Israeli fashion designer born in Morocco who rejuvenated Lanvin and recently started his own company, AZ Factory, died in Paris on Saturday. He was 59 years old.

Richemont, the company that supports Mr Elbaz’s project, confirmed the death on Sunday. A Richemont spokeswoman said the cause was Covid-19.

“Alber had a well-deserved reputation as one of the brightest and most popular figures in the business,” Richemont chairman Johann Rupert said in a statement. “His intelligence, sensitivity, generosity and unbridled creativity have always impressed me.”

“You made us dream, you made us think, and now you are flying,” wrote AZ Factory on its website. “Love, trust and respect, always. ❤️ Alber, we love you forever. “

Mr. Elbaz started AZ Factory after a five year hiatus following his sudden discharge from Lanvin, where he was fashion director from 2001 to 2015. During his time there, he transformed Lanvin, the oldest surviving but dusty French fashion house, into a more modern and well-known brand, whose creations were worn by the likes of Beyoncé, Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong’o, Pharell Williams, Natalie Portman and Harry Styles .

A beloved and talented designer, Mr. Elbaz was known for his generosity – he sent flowers to other designers before their shows – self-deprecating humor and self-questioning.

Mr Elbaz often mentioned being overweight and said being thin was a fantasy that influenced his work. He turned this fantasy into ease by turning his creations into comfortable and sometimes subtly eccentric clothing.

Ms. Portman once called him the “ultimate mentor for fashion philosophers”.

“He says things to me like, ‘Wear apartments. You are little It’s way cooler not to pretend, ”Ms. Portman told Time in 2007 when magazine named Mr. Elbaz one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

But for the elegance and extravagance he gave his creations, Mr Elbaz tried to keep his private life simple – a whisperer in a world full of excitement, image and screaming, he said in 2015 when he received the Fashion Group International Award.

He once compared the job of a designer to that of a concierge in a fancy Manhattan hotel.

The world of intricate clothes, cat walks, and red carpets was a world he publicly embraced, but which he continued to fear. A world that he said was not reality.

“You don’t have to go back to anything to keep the dream going,” Elbaz told The New Yorker in 2009. “The moment the dream becomes a reality and you mingle too much with all these people …” he added. leave his sentence unfinished.

Luxury clothing, however, came at a price that he readily justified: Mr Elbaz once compared a fashion collection to a vaccine – an easy-to-duplicate product, but not cheap to make.

Albert Elbaz was born in Morocco in 1961 and grew up in Israel. After studying fashion design in Tel Aviv, he moved to New York in the mid-1980s, where he removed the T from his first name to avoid mispronunciation.

In New York, Mr. Elbaz became the assistant designer of Geoffrey Beene. In 1997 he moved to Paris to become head of prêt-à-porter design at Guy Laroche. He also directed Yves Saint Laurent’s ready-to-wear collections.

Then Lanvin came along in 2001 and tried to blur the lines between seasonal collections and generations, between the Parisian chic and the practical.

At the time of his departure, Lanvin was struggling with declining revenues, which Mr. Elbaz attributed to a lack of strategy and investment.

With his new brand AZ Factory, supported by Richemont, the Swiss luxury company, he brought a vision: to make clothes that women would like to wear at a cheaper price.

“I asked myself,” If I were a woman what would I want? “Mr. Elbaz told the New York Times in January.” Something comfortable at first. Something fun. Something I can eat a big piece of cake with. “

That allowed him to create the simplest things he’d ever done, he said – although he’d also compared the making of his new brand to birth.

“My hormones are burning,” added Mr. Elbaz. “I itch so much. I cry and laugh within seconds. “

Elizabeth Paton and Vanessa Friedman contributed to the coverage.