MILAN — Alber Elbaz is dipping back into the fashion scene with a Tod’s collaboration.
Elbaz is designing a capsule collection of accessories for Tod’s Factory to be revealed by this summer. “He is one of the few great designers around. His sense of modernity is extraordinary and we are very, very happy to see him restart in fashion with us,” Tod’s chief Diego Della Valle enthused during an interview at the company’s headquarters in Milan.
“It’s going to be fantastic. He has such vision, he is three steps ahead,” said Della Valle of the Israeli-born designer, who was ousted from Lanvin in October 2015 after reviving the storied house and shaping the brand during a celebrated 14-year tenure.
Since then, Elbaz has been keeping busy with speaking engagements and various design projects, including a Converse sneaker; a limited-edition makeup line with Lancôme; a range of travel bags and accessories with LeSportsac, and a fragrance with French perfumer Frédéric Malle.
The designer said his latest collaboration was almost two years in the making, after Vogue editors Anna Wintour and the late Franca Sozzani introduced him to Della Valle.
“We had many dinners. We both like to eat,” deadpanned Elbaz, who plans to post on Instagram one sketch done at the Italian fashion titan’s kitchen table.
He was otherwise mum on the design inspiration and concepts, letting slip only that the capsule would be “mostly shoes” and a few bags.
Yet he was expansive about the “personal” nature of the project, having met Della Valle’s spouse, brother and children, along with countless talents at Tod’s factories, which he toured.
“It made it fun, and very human. This is what I really love in fashion,” said the designer, who frequently lauded the “human scale” of the Lanvin house. “It was nice to come back to a real family and the whole artisanal aspect was something I really miss.
“I’ve always had a very strong rapport with the atelier, seamstresses and tailors — the real makers,” he continued. “I loved being in the Tod’s factory, it’s such a gorgeous place.”
Della Valle touted the success of his brainchild Tod’s Factory, launched last year. “The direction is very clear,” said the executive, ticking off Italian lifestyle and craftsmanship as two cornerstones of the project.
“It’s an ongoing evolution of creativity, ideas, store formats, work organization and brand communication,” he said. “It is fundamental to stay true to your brand’s essential elements, though, at a time when everything is questioned, there is less customer loyalty and consumers are bombarded with offers and storytelling. Ours are true stories, we don’t have to make them up,” contended Della Valle, who has long emphasized the brand’s history and leather expertise. “It’s important not to be driven blindly by the requests of the market because if you go to sea without a compass, you get lost, you lose your identity. Control your message and customers are inclined to appreciate a solid story.”
A flagship dedicated to Tod’s Factory is slated to open on Milan’s Via Montenapoleone by the end of May. Covering around 15,120 square feet, Della Valle described it “almost like a club for customers.”
The company has rolled out two other formats for Tod’s Factory: the more feminine Tod’s Apartment, which opened in London last year designed by architect India Mahdavi and, most recently, Tod’s Library, at the newly opened Hudson Yards in New York.
The idea is to export these blueprints in main cities around the world, but “not serially — we don’t want stores that are all alike,” said Della Valle. While emphasizing the importance of online sales, he cautioned against “losing the dream” of the physical stores.
As reported, Tod’s launched Tod’s Factory in a reference to Andy Warhol, with the goal to drop more collections throughout the year, as well as capsules and limited editions. In September 2018, Tod’s Factory unveiled a capsule with Alessandro Dell’Acqua in Paris — nine shoe styles and seven ready-to-wear pieces, which hit stores in November.
“We have had to change our structure from a seasonal manufacturer. It’s demanding, but also an opportunity that we never had when we started. To be able to sell and communicate directly for me is miraculous. I never thought I could control the pipeline,” said Della Valle.