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When the CFDA announced that Alber Elbaz would receive the International Award earlier this month, it was in a sense the validation of what many editors have known for years - that the man behind Lanvin Couture has quietly and steadily been climbing to fashion’s pinnacle. The fact is that Alber is such a quiet and unassuming designer that his ascent would not necessarily have attracted attention, certainly not in the the way of the flash of John Galliano for Dior, or the glitz of Gucci under Tom Ford.

Jacqui Getty, Alber Elbaz and Tatiana Sorokko

But it’s his modest, his nearly self-effacing nature that has earned him across the board respect from his peers in a world hardly known for its kindness. You might find Alber strolling through the Hôtel de Crillon towards his favorite lunchtime table Au Bar, where white-clad waiters all know him by name. You might see him in a vintage clothes store, his assistant in tow, rummaging through the inventory for ideas and inspiration. Or you might spot him, boutonniere pinned to his tuxedo, in the company of any number of the Hollywood set. The one thing you will always find is an entourage that has nothing but good to say of him.

Among many of his ardent fans, the most vocal in singing his praise has consistently been Pierre Bergé, Cofounder of the House of Yves Saint Laurent. When questioned about the success of Lanvin by a French TV reporter before the House’s most recent Ready-to-Wear show in early March, Bergé chalked it up to the fact that the fashion world was increasingly beginning to realize Alber’s talent.

And if his route has been somewhat circuitous, via Geoffrey Been, Guy Laroche, Saint Laurent, and Krizia, it is at Lanvin where Alber has come into his own. renewing the label with fresh codes that speak to the chic elegant woman of today.

Alber, who is of Israeli origin, was denied a Green Card for the US only because of a processing error with Immigration. His home is now Paris, but he’s not French. He once mentioned that he had the thought, normally en route to or from the airport, that he was not a citizen of any particular nation. And perhaps that explains his collections for Lanvin, which are made in a French atelier but look equally at home anywhere in the world.

Where his genius shines is in the creation of a look that seems one of kind, dresses with an intimacy that hearkens to couture. If there is a simple elgance that permeates the style, it is evidentally just what the doctor ordered for an ailing fashion industry. Lanvin sales have been climbing at a time when other labels, notably Givenchy, Balenciaga and Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, have been having trouble getting traction.

The slope to success is slippery even in good weather, but Alber has reached the summit full speed ahead.



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