Today my friend and I went to see Alber Elbaz speak at the New York Times Center as part of a series of talks they offer. I discovered it sort of randomly; when I moved at the end of August, I bought a New York Times Sunday edition to wrap all my kitchenware, a couple of days later as I unpacked everything, I noticed an ad for a series of talks offered by the Times and a picture of Alber Elbaz among its featured guests. I phoned my friend and we got tickets, and I've been looking forward to today ever since.
At 6:30pm the lights dimmed an the presenter came out. She introduced Stefano Tonchi and Lynn Hirschberg from the Times who were going to moderate the evening. Then, there he was, Alber, with his big bow tie and suit with ankle-length pants and deliciously shiny patent leather oxfords. Oh, what a wonderful time it was! He is everything I imagined and more. He's funny and witty and a little self effacing and incredibly smart and aware of everything in the world. For an hour and a half, I laughed and resisted outbursts of "I LOVE YOU".
He talked about the way he designs (in his pajamas with CNN in the background, and no music because it influences what he sketches too much), the way he comes up with colors and inspirations (for this season he was thinking about "paradise, birds and poison" when Lynn asked him why Poison he said he liked contrasts to create a little tension). They talked about his experience at Yves St Laurent versus his experience at Lanvin; he said when started at YSL he felt like a stepchild joining a family and after the company got bought an he was ousted, he felt like a widow. He also talked about the differences between both houses, how it was a little harder at YSL because the house has tradition whereas Lanvin has heritage. With tradition there is a lot more to live up to, so people are always going "this is too much like this era YSL" or "this isn't YSL enough", and at Lanvin there isn't such a strict set of rules it's more about a feeling. Lynn mentioned how back in the day Lanvin was known for her prints, but he hasn't done any; he took a little pause and said "you know I've tried, but I didn't feel like deco or nouveau or flowers" and we all laughed. I think when he has such an amazing hand at color the prints are hardly necessary, but he's still looking for a print and when he finds it, he'll use it and it'll be amazing, I'm sure. He also spoke at length about his concept of the "disappearing dress" and how when he is at the atelier with his fit model Sue Ellen, who's "not from Texas but Brazil", he doesn't ever look at her directly, but he looks at all the mirrors and keeps making alterations until the dress disappears and all he can see is her again. He said "there is nothing worse than to see a dress on a woman, I much prefer to see a woman with a dress", which I thought was a really cool thing to say and evidently he did too, because when he finished saying that he added, "that was pretty good, wasn't it?" and everyone laughed again.
After Stefano and Lynn were done asking their questions, they opened the floor to questions from the audience and someone asked him how could someone who never went to design school get their foot in the door to which he responded "move to Hollywood, and become an actor", (which is something he brought up quite a few times and I get the feeling that he's fairly annoyed at all these actors-turned-fashion-designers, so much that he said how in fashion school they should start offering acting classes) and after we all laughed at that, he got serious and said that really the important thing is talent, and if you're good, it'll come to you sooner or later, and how it took him a long time to become successful because his clothes "don't scream, they whisper".
All in all, it was an absolutely wonderful evening and I'm thrilled I went. He is the kindest most humble man and I hope to one day be a lucky lady that wears his beautiful clothes.