With the startling news alert this afternoon that Alber Elbaz is leaving Lanvin after 14 years, just days after Raf Simons resigned from Dior and a few weeks since Alexander Wang checked out of Balenciaga, there is increasing evidence that the fashion industry as we know it is undergoing a seismic upheaval.
At the heart of each of these changes is the undeniable sense that the fashion system is broken. Designers are increasingly vocal about their displeasure with the pressures and demands they face from luxury houses—Elbaz voiced his concerns just last week at the Fashion Group International's Night of Stars event. And it suddenly seems right for them to have the confidence to stand up and say, "No more. Find someone else to design 26 collections a year."
A report in WWD noted that the designer has cleared out his office at Lanvin following disagreements with its owners.
But it's also important to note he would be an extremely strong candidate to replace Simons at Dior, which is in need of a strong artistic director with a distinctive design point of view, a proven work ethic, and, critically I think, substantial experience. (I’d hate to see Dior handed to an unknown as a result of fashion’s current fixation with out-of-the-box thinking.) So all may not be lost.
No matter how you slice it, however, his departure from Lanvin is a major blow to both the house and the industry. Elbaz trained in New York with Geoffrey Beene and designed for Guy Laroche and Yves Saint Laurent (where he was famously pushed out by Tom Ford), before establishing the modern aesthetic for Lanvin, a romantic, artistic, soulful approach to fashion that prized individuality over loud branding. His sensual gowns, often in jewel tones, were finished with the lightest of touches--his frayed hems were a signature element that other designers quickly began to adopt over the last decade. And it’s no wonder that the many women who adore him will likely wear his gowns now in mourning as much as celebration.
For one example, look no further than here for the remarks of Meryl Streep at the Night of Stars last week.