Fashion Designer Alber Elbaz Dead at 59: 'A Man of Exceptional Warmth and Talent'

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Eric Todisco
·3 min read
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ETIENNE LAURENT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Alber Elbaz

Alber Elbaz, the Israeli fashion designer who was best known for his rejuvenation of French fashion house Lanvin, has died. He was 59.

Elbaz's death was confirmed on Sunday by Richemont, the company backing Elbaz's latest fashion venture, AZ Factory. According to the New York Times, a spokeswoman for Richemont said the cause of death was COVID-19.

"It was with shock and enormous sadness that I heard of Alber's sudden passing," Richemont chairman Johann Rupert said in a statement. "Alber had a richly deserved reputation as one of the industry's brightest and most beloved figures. I was always taken by his intelligence, sensitivity, generosity and unbridled creativity. He was a man of exceptional warmth and talent, and his singular vision, sense of beauty and empathy leave an indelible impression."

"It was a great privilege watching Alber in his last endeavour as he worked to realise his dreams of 'smart fashion that cares,' " added Rupert. "His inclusive vision of fashion made women feel beautiful and comfortable by blending traditional craftsmanship with technology - highly innovative projects which sought to redefine the industry."

Rupert went on to say that Elbaz "will be greatly missed by all of us who had the good fortune to know him or work with him. On behalf of all of my colleagues at Richemont and AZ Factory, I wish to extend our sincerest condolences to his family and friends."

"On a personal note I would like to add that I have lost not only a colleague but a beloved friend," Rupert said. "Rest in peace Alber."

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Stella McCartney was among several stars to pay tribute to Elbaz on Instagram. "I interupt our Greenpeace pledge to pay the greatest of respects to my dear friend, Alber," said McCartney. "He was a light like no other in the world. In fashion, his immense talent shone so bright that it tore up the conventions and wrapped a million souls in happiness when they wore his creations."

"I will miss you sir very, very much. We all will." she added. "My love is being sent to your beloved family as they try to come to terms with such an immense loss. Thank you for making this world a better and brighter place... I love you. x."

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Elbaz was the assistant designer to Geoffrey Beene in New York before moving to Paris in 1997 to become the head of prêt-à-porter design at Guy Laroche, which put him on the map in the fashion world, according to the Times.

In 2001, he was named creative designer for Lanvin and helped transform the company into a top Paris fashion house thanks to his elegant, feminine designs and impressive runway shows. Some of Elbaz's creations at Lanvin were worn by Beyoncé, Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong'o, Pharrell Williams, Natalie Portman and Harry Styles.

"I work mostly by intuition. Every time I think too much and try to rationalize every issue, it doesn't work. I think that intuition is the essence of this métier," Elbaz said in a 2014 interview, according to WWD.

David Fisher/Shutterstock Alber Elbaz

Elbaz was eventually ousted from Lanvin in October 2015 and later partnered with Richemont to launch his new brand, AZ Factory. There, he created cutting-edge "smart" fabrics for women to wear more accessibly.

"I asked myself, 'If I was a woman, what would I want?' " Elbaz told the Times earlier this year. "Something that is first comfortable. Something fun. Something that lets me eat a big piece of cake."

Elbaz's most recent public appearance was in January during couture week in Paris. He unveiled several new projects at the show, including formfitting dresses called My Body.