Simultaneously working on the Jeanne Lanvin exhibition opening today, in which he refused to include his own designs, and his fall collection, Alber Elbaz pondered his own roots. “It’s the 125-year anniversary of the house. What is my story?” he asked himself. “I went back to the place that’s my [birthplace], which is Morocco. I started to think shapes and squares and volume and the whole idea of dressing there.” Yet Elbaz is a rare breed of romantic pragmatist. “The idea was to start with something totally nomad and urbanize it,” he said.
He opened with a boxy navy jacket over tuxedo-striped pants tucked into high boots. Tasseled ropes tied at the waist, the look projected a decidedly military flair, though Elbaz copped to a different uniform designation. “I prefer orchestra to army,” he said. If a soupçon theatrical in its simplicity, he dispelled immediately the notion of costumery with a paneled dress and skirt that were as unassuming as could be.
Elbaz has all but rejected the concept of the one-note show, and the ideas came with speed and daring. Moroccan-inspired square constructions were a major motif, from wrap skirts worn with lovely blouses or the most arresting version, a simple tank, to trim jackets and shifts. Often, he decorated lavishly, whether via pilings of rich materials and textures or with passementeries and 3-D embroideries on relatively clean silhouettes.
Asymmetric leather harnesses gave shape and visual interest to voluminous dresses. Archival prints were reimagined as intricate intarsia furs over languid dresses. Fringe flew off the facing of a big red coat, and feathers, from an intricately constructed navy skirt. For evening, Elbaz showed beautiful fluid gowns in solid chiffon and a glorious patchwork of metallic jacquards. As one might expect of their Moroccan inspiration, these descended from the regal peasantry of Yves Saint Laurent.
In fact, this collection was uncharacteristically retro for Elbaz. Yet he handled the direction deftly, embracing and retreating from his body of references as each look demanded, ultimately achieving a balance of au courant chic.