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HEART OF GLASS: To be a mannequin in the window at Lanvin means being a contortionist, daredevil, party animal, diva — and, occasionally, an auto mechanic or scarecrow.

Welcome to the fantastical displays of Alber Elbaz, the subject of a hardcover Rizzoli tome due out in October. Titled “Lanvin: I Love You,” the 260-page book features 200 color photos of window displays, many at the Lanvin flagship in Paris on the Rue du Faubourg-Saint Honoré, and other installations done for various press events.

This story first appeared in the August 19, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

What unites them is a sense of whimsy and drama, an expression of Elbaz’s storytelling approach to design.

“When I do windows, I don’t start with a red dress or a white coat, I begin with a dream with a story, and with a sketch,” the designer writes in the foreword. “Windows are the most direct way to communicate with people.”

While Elbaz has employed an array of elaborate props, including artworks, a vintage truck with models on garage creepers underneath, or a full set of musical instruments made of crushed tin cans, he can also make a big impact with a dramatic splash of paint, a gilt-framed mirror or the way mannequins writhe on divans, hang from Hula-Hoops or are splayed between bails of hay.

Elbaz said he sifted through scores of images taken by professionals, staffers and friends on mobile devices or Polaroid cameras — and arranged them by instinct. He scribbles notes on top of some of them, describing the characters that inhabit the scene. An example for a men’s window: “Jean-Philippe will be 28 in March. He studied geography at Yale, has green eyes.”

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