Tribute to Alber Elbaz and AZ Factory

I am still so in shock. One of my favorite designers, especially because of his amazing character, Alber Elbaz, died Saturday in Paris from Covid-19. He was such a warm-hearted person, always thinking about his employees. Instantly recognisable for his broad smile and distinctive personal uniform of bow ties and thick-rimmed glasses, he was best known for his star turn leading couture house Lanvin. At their peak, sales were as high as €235 million. He definitely died too young, in June he would have turned 60.

Born in Morocco and educated in Israel, Elbaz climbed the ranks of the fashion industry from a small dressmaker’s shop in New York City to serve at the helm of Guy Laroche. Then appointed by Pierre Bergé, Elbaz next worked as creative director of Yves Saint Laurent from 1998 until he was fired after three seasons when Gucci bought the company and put Tom Ford in charge.

Designer Alber Elbaz walks down the runway at the S/S 2004 Lanvin show in Paris.

Elbaz began designing for Lanvin in 2001. He also held a minority stake in the company of nearly 18 percent. During his 14-year tenure, he was credited with the house’s renewed appeal thanks to Elbaz’s «classic with a twist» takes on silk cocktail dresses and other feminine designs, often playing with color or other unusual variations on hallmark elegance.

Alber’s sketches for Lanvin

His humorous sketches of everything from lollipops to his own face became a brand signature, also remember the amazing collaboration he did with Lancôme. Elbaz’s simple, feminine clothing, which has been compared to Lanvin’s 1920s outfits, was lauded by the fashion press. In 2005 Suzy Menkes wrote: «Elbaz is every woman’s darling. And that includes Nicole, Kate, Chloë Sevigny, Sofia Coppola and a slew of rising movie names

In October 2015, Elbaz announced that he had been let go from Lanvin after disagreements with the company’s major shareholder, Shaw-Lan Wang. He then took some time off until he launched a new label together with Swiss luxury group Richemont, AZ Factory, in January.

A tribute to Alber today on the AZ Factory homepage.

The following text has been written months ago but sometimes time flies and I always postponed to post it. It feels so bizarre to show it to you now post mortem. However, it is a tribute to Alber, to his latest venture in fashion, that hopefully will also have a great input how the world consumes fashion. It is all about inclusivity and diversity. I invite you to get your last piece designed by Alber…

In a Zoom call with Alber in January…

So let me introduce you to AZ Factory, the eagerly awaited fashion concept from Alber Elbaz. Launched at Paris Haute Couture Week in January, it had not only marked the comeback of Elbaz but also Richemont’s first foray into launching a fashion label from scratch, a €25 million investment, that is focusing on online distribution.

Described as Elbaz’ «dream factory» and created with «women of our times» in mind, the label is an expansion of the playful, confident pieces that have become his calling card through the years. This is a marvellous fashion moment! Neither a revolution nor an evolution but a refreshing reset! AZ Factory might change the face of luxury fashion as long as we’ve known it and Alber Elbaz might have become the new «Hervé Leger». Over the next few months a six part capsule collection will be launching.

Alber wanted to design for «All Women».

And one of the most exciting elements surrounding this new brand is the diversity in its sizing, with an emphasis placed on the fact that this entire six capsule series is inclusive for «All Women placing importance on body positivity and inclusivity. Sizing ranges from XXS-4XL or FR34 – FR48.

MyBody ribbed stretch-knit mini dressicon and MyBody paneled stretch-knit leggingsicon

MyBody
The essence of the MyBody capsule is bodycon styles made from a technical weave fabric that sculpt the female form. The AnatoKnit technology provides hugging tension that shapes your natural curves. The boning at the back supports your posture and the ergonomic design features allow for movement and breathability. The idea behind this is functional fashion that has been made for «women on the move» and Alber wanted to encourage us to wear these with their sneakers. I think they’d look perfectly splendid with heels too.

Your Body color-block ribbed stretch-knit mini dressicon and Your Body striped stretch-knit leggingsicon

MyBody 2.0
The sporty edition of MY BODY. This additional story features colourblock designs paired with matching leggings. It’s the next level of athleisure.

Pijama Valentine printed silk-twill shirticon and Pijama Valentine printed silk-twill wide-leg pantsicon

Switchwear Pyjamas
Uplifting printed silk pyjamas are equally suited for sleep or for styling your look day or night. Made in collaboration with several artists and designers, which Alber found on Instagram due to the pandemic, these touching visuals reflect the emotions of our times and the wish to spread messages of hope, love and togetherness.

Switchwear recycled duchesse-satin maxi skirt
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Switchwear
From bed, Zoom, to yoga, to the supermarket, to couch, to date night – Switchwear takes you from cozy to couture (and back!) in under 60 seconds. Upgrade your supremely soft Switchwear Prime-layers with the iridescent, satin-like Switchwear Duchesse Add Ons.

Neoprene and mesh sneakers
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Pointy Sneakers
Hybrid footwear that combines the comfort and function of a sneaker with the elongating benefits of a pointy-toe shoes. Performance sneaker construction so you don’t have to trade off all-day comfort and stability.

In light of this, I was invited by Alber Elbaz and NET-A-PORTER to a live launch celebration for AZ Factory in the end of January. I also received a spectacle in a box to open during the event that included sweets, a puzzle, ….

Alber is such a sweet human being. He told us that he started his new venture by thinking: «How can I hug women? Who’s my customer? Is she an architect, who’s her mother, does she have kids?» He went on: «I wanted to create something for all of them. I never had one muse. I have never understood how to design for only one woman. It is the variety that counts. The world doesn’t exist of one song, one book or just one woman. Life is not black and white. I wanted to find something in the middle without being mediocre. I thought due to my own body shape that you have to hide who you are if you are a plus size. And the tiny women are sent to the children’s department. I wanted to change that. I also created the long zip opener so that women are not dependent on a man to open their dress. My sneakers are hybrid footwear, pointed like pumps to elongate the legs with all-day comfort. SwitchWear plays a key role for me. For example you wear leggings for travel and once you arrive, you just put a skirt over it. It’s modular dressing and also includes pyjamas. It is comfort, technology and a couture dream in one

Creativity? «The moment I feel and don’t be asked…» Az Lazy, Az Crazy

Thank you, Alber, for your creativity, your positivity and for making us dream… you will never be forgotten!

TO SHOP AZ FACTORY, CLICK HERE PLEASEicon.

LoL, Sandra

Photos: © AZ Factory, Net-à-Porter, © Sandra Bauknecht
DISCLOSURE: We may earn commission from links on this page, but I only recommend products I love. Promise.

Masterpiece London x Net-à-Porter

First of all, congrats to Net-à-Portericon, my favorite shopping destination turns 20 this month and it never stops to amaze me. Last Thursday, I had the privilege too attend a very exclusive zoom meeting hosted by Net-à-Porter for their top clients to explore Masterpiece London, the world’s leading cross-collecting fair, before the official launch date today.

With Alison Loehnis to the right and Charlotte Olympia in the middle at another amazing Net-à-Porter event in London.

Our lovely host, Alison Loehnis, president of Net-à-Porter, was joined by experts from the art world for a virtual discussion on «Voyages of Discovery: journey, legacy and connection in art & design.»

Philip Hewat-Jaboor gave us some great insight into Masterpiece London.

Philip Hewat-Jaboor, chairman of Masterpiece and a distinguished collector himself of exceptional pieces from every category imaginable, including 18th-century and early-19th-century ceramics, marbles, furniture and antiquities, gave us a great introduction. What sets Masterpiece London apart from other art fairs is the juxtaposition of art and design from all periods and origins. It is the unmissable art fair at which visitors can view and buy the finest works of art, design, furniture and jewellery – from antiquity to the present day.

Emma Ward during the meeting in front of a Picasso painting.

«Art is incredibly subjective.» – Emma Ward

With almost 400 years of collective art world experience, Dickinson specialises in privately and discreetly handling rare Old Masters through to Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary masterpieces. Emma Ward, Managing Director, who runs the company, explained us how to navigate through today’s complex and fast-moving art world.

Stunning necklace by Fabio Salini

«I couldn’t find the perfect color combination. Therefore I divided the gems in two rows, into warm and cold colors.» – Fabio Salini

Gemologist and jewelry designer Fabio Salini worked for Bvlgari and Cartier before launching his own brand, creates original jewelry and events around the world. In 2004 he opened his Atelier in Rome, an elegant shop and design studio that has become the focal point of his work, representing the quintessence of his style. His keen interest in contemporary art as a form of expression and a source of inspiration has led to brilliant collaborations, like that with Fernando and Humberto Campana, rooted in a tantalizing mélange of jewelry, design and art. He sees himself as a contemporary artist, very much related to his emotions. He is a pisces, very moody, feelings change every single day.

Image of Rockefeller’s salon designed by Jean-Michel Frank in 1939, showing the Léger mural and Giacometti andirons.

«I believe that a less severe principle can be found—the mixing of styles. The noble frames that came to us from the past can receive today’s creations. The house that we build now can welcome ancient things of beauty.» – Jean-Michel Frank

Such a source of inspiration: Helena Rubinstein’s apartment.

«Re-editions can be problematic.» – Daniel Malarkey

Daniel Malarkey, art advisor, specialized in contemporary art and important design for collectors. I loved his advice and speech. He spoke about provenance and the designer’s work; how proportion, materials and form inspire contemporary design today: how then one commissions site-specific design for interiors and mixing 20th century with contemporary.

Van Cleef and Arpels Œillet handbag mirror. Unique piece, High Jewelry Collection, 2019
Yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, pink sapphires, rubies, diamonds. £300.000

If this preview has whet your appetite, you can go even further with this online. Navigate on your own, you can do this from every corner of the globe. However, without the conversation with the exhibitors, you might be stuck. If you find something you like, make a telephone call, talk to the dealer, get engaged and learn more about the respective piece. Masterpiece’s exhibitors span all eras and disciplines and include many of the world’s most distinguished art dealerships.

Shopping art and design is actually similar to shopping at Net-à-Porter, do your homework. Understand the fabrics and materials, buy books and learn about iconic pieces. Buy the best you can afford, instead of buying 25 pieces, invest in THE one. You should feel comfortable in spending money so that you would like to do it again.

Chairs, ca. 1930, by Jean-Michel Frank (1895-1941), Galerie Marcilhac

If you commission a piece, find a gallery, an artist or designer. Talk about the feeling of the house, work on the discussion and have an eye on proportion.

Invest in something you like. It might become an iconic piece. I am a collector myself, my collection of high end fashion pieces is my biggest passion that I have followed since over 25 years now. I buy what I personally adore and this is in general the best advice! In the meantime, my collection includes many museum-quality objects.

Do you remember the auction sale of the art collection put together by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé that was held from February 21-25 2009? Yves Saint Laurent was a tastemaker of his own who also got inspired by art, as you can see perfectly in the creation of the famous «Mondrian dress». It was the first ever auction sale to be staged in the Nave of the Grand Palais. The event turned out to be memorable with even 34.000 visitors. Record-breaking items were: the Brancusi sculpture, Madame L.R. which fetched 28.1 million euros. The Matisse Cuckoos went for a spectacular 32 million, smashing the estimated figure of 12 to 18 million euros. Marcel Duchamp’s Belle haleine, eau de voilette fragrance bottle fetched 7.9 million euros.

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in their apartment with the famous dragon armchair.

Last but not least, a legendary item in the collection, Eileen Gray’s «dragon» armchair, defied all expectations, the sale price of 21.90 M€ being ten times the pre-sale estimate. This chair was absolutely different from her usual style, but you see how things can turn out surprisingly well.

Join Masterpiece Online (22 – 28 June 2020) for live panel discussions with leading cultural institutions, watch interviews and learn from experts, expert-led virtual tours or arrange a tailor-made private view for you and your friends.

Have a great start into the week.

LoL, Sandra

Photos: © Sandra Bauknecht, Courtesy of Rockefeller Foundation, Net-à-Porter and Masterpiece