Alber Elbaz has kept us all privy to his fantastical whereabouts thanks to, well, Instagram, since his dramatic departure from Lanvin in October. “After this tragedy I was going through—you’re laughing, but I was crying—after that tragedy I was going through, I received so many love and likes, and I was so touched, it was hundreds and hundreds of those love messages via Instagram and I decided to join the club,” he told students Tuesday night in New York during a candid talk at Parsons School of Design.
The beloved 54-year-old designer, who worked both under Geoffrey Beene and Yves Saint Laurent—two designers he expressed his love for during the conversation—was in good spirits, even joking that he “got fired after 15 years” from the Parisian house that became so associated with his name. “Since my tragedy, I’ve been traveling the world,” he told guests, moving on to gift everyone with sweet confections because “nobody has sugar anymore and I think that sugar is a very important thing for the brain, especially when you create, so I brought candy.”
Elbaz didn’t shy away from opening up about what life after Lanvin has been like, explaining that he hasn’t been able to sketch since leaving (he writes his ideas down instead) and, at one point, sadly couldn’t tell the difference between raindrops and tears dropping down his face as he walked across Paris in the months that followed.
Gloom aside, it’s his positive spirit and close friendships, not to mention Instagram, that are pushing him through. “I came here today without a private driver, without an assistant, without a secretary... I thought, there is something quite fabulous about being free,” he quipped. “I was there 15 years, almost 7 days a week, a tuna sandwich for lunch with a pizza for dinner because there were early mornings and long, long nights.”
His newfound freedom has also changed how he views his work. “One day you are out, out of the system, and you start a new life. But I love fashion. I love fashion people. I love them, really, a lot. And I really adore this industry. I see it now from a different perspective because I’m an outsider; but now, more than ever, I appreciate it more.”
Don’t think he’s taking it all entirely in stride, though. Elbaz reflected on the ultra fast-paced fashion calendar, explaining the most important tool designers need and don’t have is time. “We’re not computers. Designers are not just machines that you press a button and say, ‘Be creative on Tuesday afternoon,’” he noted. “Time grows.”
As for what’s next, don’t hold your breath. The designer didn’t specifically reveal a plan to head up his own fashion house or even rebrand another; however, he did express his yearning to return, and jokes that design is the only thing he knows how to do (“I don’t even know how to drive,” he said). Whatever is next, he hopes to return to making “exquisite” and “beautiful, beautiful, beautiful clothes.” “I would love to make clothes for women I love and I’d love to do it only with people I love,” he added. The world can't wait, Alber.