Days before the designer exited Lanvin, Elbaz delivered a mini-manifesto about the overaccelerated fashion system, the shortfalls caused by digital demands and a need for evolution. However nebulous that might sound, his underlying themes were pretty straightforward – figure out a simpler life that allows for enough time to have a life, to reflect, to create, to dream and spend time with loved ones.
Looking back, Elbaz’s whimsical, hard-hitting and somewhat poetic 20-minute talk seemed to be a bit of a farewell. After picking up the Superstar award from Meryl Streep, whom he spent a considerable amount of one-on-one time with before dinner, the now-former Lanvin designer made it clear to the crowd that he had a lot to say.
Here, highlights from Elbaz’s speech:
“A few weeks ago, we had fashion week in Paris and I saw Marylou Luther, who is a good friend who has been with me for a long time. Right after the show I told her that I have heard that we only have two minutes [for an acceptance speech]. I need some extensions and she said, ‘You can have extensions.’ And I said, ‘I don’t mean hair extensions. I need more time.’ And I think everybody in fashion these days – needs just a little more time.
“People who make a revolution are often called courageous and fearless. They are not afraid of changing the system when the system no longer works. I personally don’t like the word ‘revolution.’ I like the word ‘evolution.’ I always did. Evolution and not revolution. Evolution lives longer and looks better in history books. Revolution looks great, but only on TV. Revolution photographs look really well on the screen – drama, screaming, crying. Revolution is actually very photogenic. We live in a time that is very photogenic.
“I was asked the other day, if I have a personal Instagram [account]. I said, ‘Not really’ and they said, ‘How come?’ I said, ‘I don’t really have photogenic friends; I only have good friends. I also do not take photos of the food. I eat food,’” he said. “But I’m addicted to Instagram and I love it. And I just met Kevin, the founder of Instagram. And I loved him for being so smart — not just smart, but humble. That’s a nice combination.
“I feel sometimes that creative people and artists are just sensitive antennas that feel things that are in the air, things that are happening, and things that might happen. An antenna that feels the changes and then we translate them into music into art, theater and fashion.
“During fashion week in Paris, I spoke with a few editors who I know and I said to them, ‘Hey, how are you?’ And they said, ‘Exhausted.’ They said they used to have to see 50 shows a week, now they have to see 50 shows a day, but there are only 24 hours. I spoke with a few writers and they said the same thing. They used to write the review in a taxi having an apple, and I’m not talking Apple computer, just a green apple in between two shows. That’s how they gave us their verdict. Now they have to do it during the show with no apple. Instead it is long hours and no time to digest – and you know that fashion people don’t eat much.
“The fashionistas are very, very busy during the show filming everything. When I came out after the show, I felt there was no clapping and I asked, ‘What’s going on?’ and they said, ‘They’re filming. They don’t have two hands [to clap.]’ My friend Ronnie Newhouse suggested to create an app for clapping, so that you can film, Instagram and clap all at the same time.
“Retailers, they’re filming, but they don’t have time to go be in stores. They don’t have the time to meet the people on the floor — traveling and more traveling, going from one show to another and looking at numbers — numbers and open-to-buy. I say to retailers, ‘Look at people because people make numbers.’ Numbers don’t often mix the other way. And we designers, we started as couturiers, with dreams, with intuitions, with feelings, with spirit. What do women want? What do women need? What can I do for women to make her life better and easier? How can I make a woman more beautiful? That is what we used to do. Then we became creative directors so we have to create but mostly direct. And now we have to become image-makers, creating a buzz, making sure it looks good in the pictures. The screen has to scream, baby — that’s the rule. And loudness is the new thing. Loudness is the new cool, and not only in fashion.
“I prefer whispering. I think it goes deeper and I think it stays longer. It seems to be that sometimes it’s almost more important that the dress looks good in the photo than it looks good or feels good on the body. Sometimes when I see clients trying dresses, I see that before they even go to the mirror, they just take a selfie and look at themselves in the selfie. And tell me what they like about the belt. Maybe the selfie is becoming the new mirror. If that’s the case and we will not have mirrors in the world, who will tell us the truth?
“We are living today in a smart world, a world of very smart design. Today it’s all about smart design, smart thinking, smart product, technology, rapidity….Adidas says, ‘The future is now.’ Today a 12-year-old girl living in the middle of nowhere with technology can see all the shows in Paris live — the show, the front row, the backstage, the celebrities — wow. Technology makes her dream come true. That girl, like many others, is living in a dream. But can we imagine a world without dreams. A world without dreams is not always a beautiful world. Dreams make us go forward. Dreams make me run forward. And people who know me, know that I don’t like to run in the park.
“There are many actresses and actors here tonight and they’re all here to support us — fashion people. I love movies and I love Hollywood. Films make me fly. They make me dream. Films make me cry, they also make me laugh. I can only see movies in the movie theater because I need the dark to dream. I need the large popcorn and I can never decide if I want it salty or sweet, so I ask for half and half. And I ask, ‘Should I have the salty first, and then the sweet? Or first sweet and then the salty?’ It depends on my mood. But again today with so much information, I know too much about so many things. I know where the actress lives, I saw her picture in a white bikini in Cannes on a yacht, I saw her engagement ring of 8 carats that she just got from her very new and very young boyfriend in very new Mexico. So all I do when I’m watching this is ask, ‘Do I like her ring? Do I like her new haircut in the movie? I actually don’t like her shoes in the movie.’ And where is the dream? And it’s not about young actresses or old actresses, and it’s not about young actors or old actors. It’s about good actor and bad actor. And it’s not about new designers and old designers, it’s all about good designers and bad designers. And that’s how it goes.
“I’m not against technology. I’m embracing technology. I love what it is. I respect smart design. I love smart people. I love most good people with heart. I believe that the biggest change in fashion will come because of technology and with technology. But the real evolution, not the revolution, will happen when tradition, and know-how, and human touch, and beauty, and newness and technology will become one.
“I want to thank tonight the people of Lanvin. I’m only the conductor of Lanvin. The real orchestra is my studio, my atelier, all the people at Lanvin that give their heart and their life to the work. Just a week ago we celebrated a little going-away party for a lady, a seamstress named Maria who was going into retirement. She was 17 when she came to Lanvin, a teenager and now she is a grandmother at the age of 61. I asked her, ‘Maria, why are you going?’ and she said, ‘Because I am tired.’ And I said, ‘What will you do?’ and she said, ‘I will take care of my grandchildren.’ And Maria is what fashion is all about — she is a seamstress with a needle and a thread, but all she does is seaming dreams for all of you ladies. And I want to thank my partner and my best friend in the world, Alex.
“Tonight the Fashion Group International made me a Superstar, but it’s only for tonight because Cinderella is going home before midnight. I thank you Fashion Group International for this award. In my family we have a tradition that when we receive a present, we have to give one back. So I brought you Meryl, since you gave me one, a few stars from Paris that we made in the studio. And maybe as I said before, I am the superstar tonight, but you, and you, and you are the real stars. And all it takes to make someone a star is to give him or her love — a lot of love.
“Two more seconds and I’m done. We are here tonight and it’s just after 10:16 p.m. and I was told we need to leave by 10:16. But I always feel that this fashion industry is not like a planned event, but it is more like a wedding banquet where there is not much glamour, but more of a feeling of family, sometimes a little bit of a dysfunctional family but still a family. I will end with a little family story. Two days before my mother left and went to live with a star herself, my two sisters sat with her in the room and asked, ‘Mom, why didn’t you say, I love you a little bit more often?’ And my mother said she was raised in a generation that was trained to show love but not to say, ‘I love you.’ So I hope that we will start a new life where we can show love, but also say ‘I love you’ to each other. So we will be a little bit more happy and we will have a little bit more of a beautiful world. Thank you very much.”