MILAN — Alber Elbaz is joining Krizia, the Italian fashion house, as head women’s wear designer, WWD has learned.
According to highly reliable sources, Elbaz agreed this week to head the company’s design team, which has been run since the firm’s inception 45 years ago by its founder, Mariuccia Mandelli, who owns Krizia with her husband, Aldo Pinto. Mandelli, the sources said, would still have an active role in the company’s design studios but the main ready-to-wear collection would be designed by Elbaz.
Elbaz’s first collection for the house will be presented here
in October.
Both Mandelli and Pinto were on vacation and unavailable for comment, as was Elbaz.
Elbaz has certainly had his share of ups and downs over the past few years. This March, the Moroccan-born designer, who grew up in Israel, was making headlines for his graceful exit as chief designer of Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche collection. Hired in 1998, the 39-year-old Elbaz had designed just three collections before YSL’s new owners — Gucci Group NV — handed him a pink slip.
The designer got his start at Geoffrey Beene, and worked for that company for 7 1/2 years before moving into the top slot at Guy Laroche. Elbaz’s assignment was to breathe new life into the Guy Laroche label — but as it turned out, he didn’t stay for very long. The three collections he designed for Laroche were exalted by the press and snapped up by stores. They also caught the eye of Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Berge, who quickly signed on the young designer.
Known as a creator with a commercial bent, Elbaz told WWD in 1998: “A designer should not be embarrassed to admit wanting to sell.”
As for his personal approach to design, he once said: “I don’t want to play games. I don’t want to be a star. My mother says ‘A star goes up and then goes down.’ That’s not my trip. I just want to make beautiful clothes.”
He’ll have ample opportunity at Krizia. The backbone of the Krizia collections has always been luxurious knitwear and deconstructed, softly tailored clothing. Elbaz will also be able to draw from the large Krizia archive.
Mandelli made her debut at Florence’s Sala Bianca in 1964 — the showcase for Italy’s first generation of rtw designers — and continues to turn out salable collections. Industry observers, however, say the company is in need of some fresh air — and someone to edit and give more focus to the Krizia collections.
Mandelli started her business in a two-room apartment in Milan, and was so determined to succeed that she would regularly pack her designs into a suitcase and travel throughout Italy, showing them to boutique owners. Her talent as a budding designer was such that the first time she showed at the Sala Bianca, she won the prestigious journalists’ prize — which until then had only been awarded to Emilio Pucci.
In recent years, Mandelli and her husband have made moves to streamline the company structure and bring in new management. The house has a vigorous business in Asia, and more than 30 licenses including a home collection and, most recently, an activewear line known as Krizia Active, which is made under license by the Italian company Slide.