While the high-gloss world of high fashion may seem intimidating to an outsider, Alber Elbaz wants you to know that he’s really a regular guy: When he’s not designing collections for Lanvin, he’s at home in Paris eating pizza and watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians just like anyone else.
To be fair, Elbaz has always been an outlier among the fashion greats. He may be one of the most respected designers of our time, with a very signature draped look that makes women (and celebrities) swoon, but it’s his acute sensitivity around what women really want to wear—as well as his charming demeanor and weakness for a really good meal—that secured him a special place in the industry.
At a recent interview with journalist Alina Cho at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Elbaz gave his classically unfiltered take on Instagram, about his Instagram obsession (all this coming from a man that doesn’t have an email account, no less an Instagram handle.) Here are some of the highlights:
On his new Hugh Hefner-like personal style: “For many years, I [wore] black, because a big part of my work is actually sitting in a small studio with a big mirrors…a And I look in the mirror a lot,” said Elbaz. ” I realized that in order to create, I need to disappear, [so I] wore black.
It’s OK to wear black and disappear sometimes and OK to reappear. It’s OK to make people miss you sometimes, so when you say ‘honey, I’m home!” you always have someone to say ‘wow that’s great!’. So after a long time I looked at my wardrobe and its 20 black coats and 20 black shirts, [so] I decided to [wear] all of these prints.
I looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘Wow, I look like Hugh Hefner.'”
On coming to New York with $800 and a dream: “I was living here for three years and it was so tough to get into the place where I wanted to work—and there weren’t many places I wanted to work,” said Elbaz. “There was one man I wanted to work for, and it was Geoffrey Beene. It was almost three years and I couldn’t get that interview.
I started to feel down, and after a while I stared thinking that the dream of working with the man I wanted to work with wasn’t happening. I believe in destiny. I believe in hard work, in making things and making it your way. And then [came] a moment that I didn’t expect: I was interviewed by [fashion consultant] Dawn Mello to take Gucci. She saw my work she said ‘I don’t know if you’d be right for Gucci, but you’d be great at Geoffrey Beene.’ So she called Mr. Beene and he hired me.”
On personal style in the age of Instagram: “I realize that people aren’t really living today, they’re posting,” he said. They are not really listening, but they’re taping. They are not really looking but they are filming. In that world of taping, and filming, and posting, the one thing in common for all of us is that we want to document the moment. So it’s not just that you’re going on vacation, you have to go with photogenic friends. You go to restaurants it’s not really about eating it has to look good. When you get dressed, it’s not about how comfortable or how beautiful you feel, but how it looks in the picture.
Everything is for the photo.
So we created a collection that is for the photos. I went with vibrant colors and vibrant prints and everything that is just a little bit loud.”
On his Instagram addiction…and why it’s about more than likes: “I’m obsessed,” Elbaz said about the fashion world’s social media app of choice. “I look at it night [on my partner’s account] and I look at it in the morning to see what I’m missing. It’s a bit of voyeurism and my job as a designer is to be a bit of a voyeur. I have to see and I have to digest and reflect….
It’s quite interesting that when I see Instagram because it makes me feel so down,” he lamented. “I look and see these people I know…. On Wednesday night they are in Beijing for Dior! On Friday they are in Barcelona for an amfAR event! On Friday that are just having a bit of a ski! Everyone is so amazing and even just a simple dinner— even their mozzarella looks sexy! Depressing, so depressing.
I go to work and just make sure that other people look fabulous.”
On the importance of work-life balance: “The one thing I do when I come home after 14 hours of work…I’m sure they think I’ll [people will] think I’ll say I’m reading Tolstoy,” joked Elbaz before confessing his guilty pleasures. “I’m watching Kim Kardashian. I’m ordering pizza and I’m having the time of my life.”
Want more Lanvin? Here are some key looks from Lanvin’s bold and bright Instagram-inspired resort 2016 collection: