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AZ Factory closed out the whole Spring-Summer 2022 season for Paris Fashion Week, with fans packed into the Carreau du Temple to honor renowned designer Alber Elbaz, who shockingly died at the age of 59 from COVID-19 in April of this year.
It was only in January that Albaz launched his brand, AZ Factory. Some of the pieces in Monday night’s presentation were his final creations, but they were accompanied by looks from a plethora of other high-fashion brands. Themed “Love Brings Love,” the show was a collaboration of over 40 couture houses, unified to honor the life and sartorial legacy of the Israeli designer.
The show was inspired by Théâtre de la Mode, a 1945 exhibition that took place in Paris where 60-plus couture designers including Cristóbal Balenciaga and Christian Dior made it a point to highlight French high fashion right after World War II ravaged their continent.
When the show was announced a few months ago, AZ Factory said that Elbaz had dreamt of finding ways of uniting his wider fashion family. “This year, with the help of all those who loved him, AZ Factory will bring Alber’s biggest dream to life.”
Attending was the first lady of France, Brigitte Macron. And sitting next to Alex Koo, Albaz’s partner of over two decades, was actress Demi Moore along with her daughter Scout LaRue Willis. Wearing an all-black ensemble, Moore said she had been close friends with the designer for many years, to the point of the two being like family.
“It’s very difficult to sum up everything that he meant to me but the beauty,” and pausing for a moment, trying to get her words together, Moore blurted out in raw honesty, “I could cry.” Composing herself she mused, “There’s a magic that you can’t put words to, the love that he gave. My daughter interned for Alber when she was 15 years old. I treasure him, and I wouldn’t have missed tonight for anything. Tonight, you can really see what all the designers brought forward and the incredible creativity, but the love, he loved.”
Once through security and COVID-19 pass checks, guests were given a book filled with thoughts and quotes from the 44 designers who designed a piece for the collection. Pastries and champagne lined the runway as guests mingled. Once at their seats, guests were greeted with a recorded voice of Koo remembering his partner.
“Alber was a family man in his heart,” his voice echoed in the dark room, as multiple displays of the AZ Factory logo danced around the venue ,with many spotlights. “He never forgot his roots and the loving support from his family. He cared for people like an obsessive parent. He loved his own friends like his brother and sister, but most of all he touched the hearts of the people he met, with humor and plenty of generosity. He made us laugh and he made us cry, and he made us dream. He made us just want to reach out and hug him. To me, Alber was always just Alber. He was the same humble, funny, loving and generous man I met in New York City and remained by my side for these precious 28 years.”
Then, works of high design entered the runway from notable designers like Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, Versace’s Donatella Versace, Thebe Magugu and Ralph Lauren all honoring Elbaz.
Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga, created a nylon taffeta cape dress, a look of maximal volume using minimal seams all done in a distinct shade of pink, shown with a pair of matching Balenciaga Pantashoes. Charaf Tajer created a chiffon dress in pastel ombre that flows over the female form, in line with Albaz’s mission to support women and make them feel confident with their body shape in whatever he was creating. And Ralph Lauren created a fun everyday look, an iconic cashmere Polo Bear sweater worn with black wool suiting trousers, a white cotton broadcloth shirt, a red silk faille boy and black brogues.
For the finale, instead of models walking in a single-file line, each model was in her own cube structure dancing to The O’Jays “Love Train,” as heart confetti filled the room like it was New Year’s Eve night. Though it was in some ways a night to mourn the loss of Albaz — and his partner Koo could be seen wiping his eyes behind his sunglasses — it was also a night to celebrate the life of the designer, who was known for his humility, unpretentious and extreme kindness, who left a mark in the fashion industry, first getting his feet wet working for Geoffrey Beene, then onto Guy Laroche, then Yves Saint Laurent, Lanvin and, finally, his own baby, AZ Factory.
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Jamie Lee Curtis