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Alber Elbaz Goes Cali Cool for Lanvin's Latest Resort Collection

"L.A. is known as a red-carpet city, but L.A. for me is also the place where I know I'm going to the home of my friends, so I do what I think they would be wearing at home," says the French fashion house's creative director of his brand's latest collection.
AP Photo/Jacques Brinon

Alber Elbaz nicely sums up the difference between the Resort collections, which have been rolling out across New York for the past month, and the splashier runway shows that debut Spring and Fall lines. "So much of what we do is a factory of dreams, but [Resort] tends to be thought of as a factory of need," he tells Pret-a-Reporter. "But one thing I can’t compromise is the idea of what’s beautiful."

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Elbaz routinely makes the trek from Paris to New York to present Resort, known as Pre-Spring in Lanvin's vernacular. No matter how each house labels it (Pre-Spring, Resort or Cruise), it’s a season that’s grown in importance on the fashion calendar, not only for its transitional purposes between Fall and Spring — hence all those "need" pieces Elbaz mentioned — but also because it’s the collection that stays in stores the longest, arriving mid-November and remaining well into April. Perhaps that’s the reason Elbaz prefers an informal setting — in this case, Milk Studios, where he discussed each of the 30 looks as they came out — rather than a runway show followed by a designer’s bow. "It’s not about showing, it’s about sharing," he says.

Lanvin Pre-Spring 2015 is all about a pared-down chic — "not so much decoration this time," Elbaz notes — as the designer concentrated on new fabrications (a stretch taffeta for a coat or a new linen he’s enjoying working with) as well as perfecting luxe pieces: a sleek tuxedo pant, a black lace blouse with a plunging V-neck or easy satin shifts in white or lipstick red. The Lanvin DNA is omnipresent — the languid bow, a lush flower at the neck — but there’s a discernable tinge of minimalism injected into the collection, as well as a relaxed '70s vibe, resulting in a collection that felt wholly L.A.-friendly. That might not be accidental, Elbaz says.

"L.A. is one of my favorite places in America and in the world," he explains. "I think it’s one of the only places where people invite you to their home; you don’t meet them in a bar or restaurant, and that’s the beauty of that city. And when you dress at home you dress differently. L.A. is known as a red-carpet city, but L.A. for me is also the place where I know I’m going to the home of my friends, so I do what I think they would be wearing at home — not just clothes that look good in the photo, but clothes that look good in life. And looking good in life is about comfortable, it’s about easiness, it’s about leisure and about beauty.”

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Elbaz indeed boasts a healthy L.A. fan base — Julianne Moore, Claire Danes, Emma Stone and Lorde are among those who have worn his designs to recent events — and likely that’s because, for Lanvin’s creative director, that last element is always first in his mind. "I never, ever, ever forget to think about the beauty," Elbaz says. "Resort today is a very big season because the clothes are in the store for a long time, but the danger of that is that it can turn into a needs collection. I’m always searching for the right balance — in fashion we have need and we have desire, but without beauty, we have nothing."

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