Farida Khelfa, Jean-Paul Goude and Jack Lang


PARIS — Former French culture minister Jack Lang has waded into the controversy surrounding the departure of Alber Elbaz as creative director of Lanvin, qualifying the decision as “incomprehensible and shocking.”

In a statement, the politician — who is now president of the Arab World Institute — said he backed Lanvin employees in calling for the return of the Israeli-American designer, ousted last week by majority owner Shaw-Lan Wang.

“To cut the wings of this exceptional talent in this way makes me very sad and angry. I can only share in the fervent wish of the Lanvin employees who are strongly and rightly calling for the return of this great designer. This dismissal is an unbearable and unspeakable injustice,” Lang said.

“Talent is not dismissible and our country should be proud of the great Alber Elbaz. He is one of our national treasures. He is an icon and a source of pride to us. We owe him our unfailing support, our respect and our affection,” added the Socialist politician, who has attended Lanvin’s catwalk shows several times.

Officials at Lanvin were not immediately available for comment.

Tensions between staff and management at Lanvin reached a new high this week, with Charles-Henry Paradis, a member of the works council who represents employees on the company board, accusing management of trying to stall the official procedure launched by the works council last week to obtain answer from Wang.

The employees want the house’s owner to return to Paris from Taiwan, where she is based, to listen to their concerns, answer questions and reassure employees. A spokeswoman for Lanvin dismissed his claims, saying it was business as usual at the house, despite the highly emotional context.

Lanvin employees were told of Elbaz’s dismissal last week — news met with shock, tears and chants of “Alber, Alber, Alber.”

News of Elbaz’s ouster after an eventful 14-year tenure was first reported on WWD.com, with the designer holding out hope that the company “finds the business vision it needs to engage in the right way forward.”

Sources said the rupture came following disagreements between Elbaz, Wang and chief executive officer Michèle Huiban.

Elbaz has yet to indicate his future intentions, and his successor at Lanvin has yet to be named. As reported, names on its short list could include Olivier Rousteing, Simone Rocha, Huishan Zhang and Joseph Altuzarra, as well as Lucas Ossendrijver, tapped by Elbaz in 2005 to rejuvenate Lanvin Homme.

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