PARIS — Quashing ubiquitous speculation that he was headed for Givenchy, designer Alber Elbaz said Thursday he’s staying put at Lanvin.
“It makes sense for me to stay where I feel really comfortable,” Elbaz said in an exclusive interview. “I love the company and I love the house. It’s given me luck.”
Elbaz said he signed a long-term contract at Lanvin, but declined to specify the terms. He also skirted the Givenchy question, saying only: “There were a lot of rumors around. I talked to several people, as it was known my contract was up. But at the end of the day, I decided my place is Lanvin. I just started the job, in a way.”
Ever since Givenchy parted with designer Julien Macdonald last spring, editors and retailers alike have been vocally promoting Elbaz for the job. Givenchy, owned by luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has remained mum on its intentions, but it is believed to have courted Elbaz, who has been winning critical acclaim for the feminine, sophisticated dresses for Lanvin he’s been turning out over the past five seasons. Even Liv Tyler, the face of Givenchy fragrances, is among Lanvin’s celebrity devotees.
Julie Gilhart, vice president and fashion director at Barneys New York, applauded Thursday’s news, saying Elbaz’s aesthetic is perfectly matched with Lanvin.
“It’s working so well,” she said, noting Lanvin will soon move to enlarged digs on the second floor of Barneys’ Manhattan flagship. “Alber is an incredibly talented designer who has so much to say, and Lanvin is such a nice platform to say it.”
Elbaz said he renewed out of devotion to Lanvin owner Shaw-Lan Wang, and also out of recognition that “I don’t want to move around every few years to another house.”
To be sure, Elbaz has played his share of musical chairs.
After working in obscurity for seven years with Geoffrey Beene in New York, Israeli-born Elbaz was recruited in 1996 to head Guy Laroche. Three collections of young and fetching designs won him one of the most high-profile jobs in fashion: succeeding 20th century legend Yves Saint Laurent as the designer of YSL Rive Gauche ready-to-wear.
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But Elbaz was fired in March 2000 in the wake of Gucci Group’s takeover of the house, and was succeeded by Tom Ford. Following one tumultuous season at Krizia Top in Milan, Elbaz sat on the sidelines of the industry for a year.
Although he had been rumored then to be a finalist for Givenchy, which at the time was seeking a successor to Alexander McQueen, Elbaz wound up at Lanvin, where his fluid silk dresses have brought new buzz to a dusty brand. Women’s rtw sales, while representing only 16 percent of the brand’s total, have increased tenfold since Elbaz’s arrival two years ago.
But the company isn’t quite out of the woods. In April, Lanvin said it would lay off as many as 65 people and exit the watch and perfume business in an effort to stem heavy losses, which last year swelled to 22 million euros, or $26.8 million at current exchange, on sales of 79.3 million euros, or $97.6 million.
In June, Lanvin inked a 15-year licensing agreement with Inter Parfums SA, giving it a windfall in upfront licensing fees of 16 million euros, or $19.3 million, which was earmarked partly to fund growth in luxury rtw.