Israeli American fashion designer
Born: Casablanca, Morocco, 1961. Education: Graduated from Shenkar College of Textile Technology and Fashion, Tel Aviv, Israel, circa 1988; studied with Geoffrey Beene, New York, circa 1989-96. Career: Creative director, Guy Laroche, 1996-98; designer, Yves Saint Laurent Couture, Rive Gauche collections, Gucci Group N.V., 1998-2000; designed for Krizia SpA, 2000; signed on as creative director/designer, Lanvin, 2001. Awards: American Committee for Shenkar College, Israel, Alumni award, 2001.
Phelps, Nicole, "The New Guy at Laroche," in WWD, 2 July 1997.
Klensch, Elsa, "New Designer Modernizes Laroche Line," available online at CNN.com , 18 August 1997.
Bellafante, Ginia, "Tired of Chic Simple? Welcome to the New Romance," in Time, 6 April 1998.
Menkes, Suzy, "A New Generation in Ready-to-Wear: Alber Elbaz Gets Aboard at YSL," in the International Herald Tribune, 9 June 1998.
Yanowitch, Lee, "Israeli Designer to Produce Yves Saint Laurent Line," in Jewish Bulletin of Northern California, 17 July 1998.
Silva, Horacio, "Chic Happens," in Hint Fashion Magazine, 7 October 1998.
Patterson, Suzy, "Spring is Abloom on Paris Runways, and the View is Beautiful, Elegant," in SouthCoast Today, 21 October 1998.
Steifel-Kristensen, Tom, "Individuality Rules in Paris," available online at Furs.com , fall 1999/2000.
Raper, Sarah, and Samantha Conti, "Gucci Takeover of YSL May Have hit a Snag," in WWD, 11 October 1999.
Conti, Samantha, et al, "Gucci Acquires YSL," in WWD, 16 November 1999.
Menkes, Suzy, "His Last Collection for Saint Laurent is a Smash," in the International Herald Tribune, 29 February 2000.
Deeny, Godfrey, "Krizia Top: Alber Elbaz Ravishes in His Third Act," in Fashion Wire Daily, 5 October 2000.
Menkes, Suzy, "A Few Vivacious Voices Hit the High Notes in Milan," in the International Herald Tribune, 7 October 2000.
O'Brian, Heather, "A Bitter Parting Between Alber Elbaz and Krizia," in Fashion Wire Daily, 30 November 2000.
"Shenkar College Honors Three Prestigious Alumni," in WWD, 17April 2001.
"Fashion Scoops (Alber Elbaz)," in WWD, 11 October 2001.
Alber Elbaz was born in 1961 in Casablanca, Morocco, to a Jewish family. He was raised in Israel, where he graduated from the Shenkar College of Textile Technology and Fashion. Later he moved to New York, where he spent seven years training with Geoffrey Beene, described by critics and other designers as "one of the few American designers who follows the rules and tenets of true couture."
In June 1996 Elbaz was hired by the venerable French design house, Guy Laroche. Although a graduate of a top-rate fashion school and a protégé of Beene's, Elbaz was still an unknown in the couture world at the time when Laroche's president, Ralph Toledano, hired him. Toledano had been duly impressed by Elbaz's sketches, drawn while on a recent vacation. Toledano found the designs breathtakingly feminine, and liked the designer's personal style as well. "When he came to see me," Toledano told Arts/Fashion magazine (6 April 1998), "he had on red shoes and a red jacket. The guy knew how to capture your attention."
Elbaz brought luxurious skirt suits, pink-and-white dresses of layered tulle, billowy-sleeved jackets, and Capri pantsuits, all accented in strips of fur, lines of sequins, or wild pink and pink-toned colors to Laroche at a time when the fashion industry had spent a decade slowing down and moving away from loud outrageousness and toward austere, sensible, classy clothes. "Maybe, if we can find it in our hearts, we should reserve a small 'Thank You' to Titanic for making women so hungry to look feminine right now. The era depicted in the movie was, after all, the era of languid dress," Richard Martin, curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, wrote in Arts/Fashion, in April 1998.
In 1998 Elbaz was spirited away from Laroche with an offer from Yves Saint Laurent Couture. The legendary Saint Laurent, after 32 years of designing, had decided it was time for a change. At his direction, Pierre Berge, president of YSL Couture, hired the 37-year-old Elbaz to take over for the Rive Gauche ready-to-wear line. "For me, this isn't a career move, but the realization of my life's dream," Elbaz said in a press release from YSL. But it was not an easy move for the young designer; he was anguished over his departure from Laroche and Toledano, who was proud of Elbaz's success yet sorry to see him go.
Bringing Elbaz on board had been the second big change at YSL in as many years. Berge had already hired Hedi Slimane as YSL's menswear designer in 1996, a move that had bolstered sales in that arena. The appointment left many in the fashion world wondering how it would all work out. Saint Laurent had been designing blazers, pantsuits, shorts, lady's suits, and the safari look for more matronly clients, searching for elegant businesswear and streamlined eveningwear. Elbaz, on the other hand, designed silk-pouch dresses, halter tops with droopy, hanging necklines, riots of deep green, light yellow, blue, gray, red, and purple colors, featuring fabrics like taffeta, jerseys, tulle, tweed, and fox fur-lined sleeves.
Yet buyers and critics at Elbaz's first show for YSL in early 1999 responded enthusiastically to this new look in a venerable couture house. "Alber Elbaz is…the spirit of YSL; but the technique of Elbaz…is bringing the house into the new millennium," said Kal Ruttenstein of Bloomingdale's after Elbaz's opening show for YSL. Glowing reviews aside, corporate shenanigans came into play in 2000 after YSL was acquired by the Gucci Group. The fall YSL women's ready-to-wear showing in Paris would be Elbaz's final collection for the firm. "Alber Elbaz has made an important contribution to the history of Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche," Domenico DeSole, president and CEO of Gucci, said in a press release. Gucci Group's creative director and chief designer, Tom Ford, was assuming all design responsibilities for the burgeoning fashion empire.
Elbaz moved on to Krizia, where he designed a beautiful, well received African-influenced collection for their Krizia Top line, featuring feathers, chunky jewelry, sporty tailoring, wrapped satin blouses, and suede skirts, in rich African colors such as earth brown, clay red, and tan, with tribal markings as patterns. But his tenure there would only last a scant three months before a bitter parting over artistic differences between Elbaz and Mariuccia Mandelli. He was replaced there by Belgian designer Jean-Paul Knott.
Elbaz, however, landed on his feet. In 2001 he signed with Lanvin (recently bought from Revlon by Harmonie SA) as creative director for its women's ready-to-wear and accessories lines. His first collection debuted in March for fall 2002.