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
icon

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
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Chloé’s Natacha Ramsay-Levi Steps Down

On December 2nd, I was invited by Net-à-Porter to join a live event hosted by Alison Loehnis, President of NET-A-PORTER and MR PORTER and Natacha Ramsay-Levi, Creative Director of Chloé to discuss the S/S 2021 collection. I was so keen on it and hoped to make it on time as the moving company was still unloading my boxes. However, all of a sudden I received a message in the morning of the 2nd that due to Natacha Ramsay-Levi being unwell, Net-à-Porter was regrettably cancelling the event with Chloé. Today, I found out why Natacha was not feeling well.

She is stepping down from her role at the Parisian luxury leather goods and apparel brand owned by Richemont after only 4 years. A new creative director was not named yet.

«Over the last months of health, social and economic turmoil, I have thought about the changes I want to see in our industry and how to better align them with my own creative, intellectual and emotional valuesMs. Ramsay-Levi said in her statement. «It is this reflection that makes me consider my future differently and desire to pursue new opportunities.»

Me wearing some of Natacha’s key looks for Chloé

Personally speaking, I truly liked Natacha’s vision, who worked as a key deputy of Nicolas Ghesquière during his time at Balenciaga and during his early seasons at Louis Vuitton, as it was a less commercial take on the house’s bohemian and very feminine codes. However, what had been driving the most sales at Chloé previously, were all the It-bags under previous designers like Clare Waight Keller and Hannah MacGibbon, that have been lacking recently. Even that the collections were broadly well received by fashion lovers, they were ultimately lacking in strong-selling items unfortunately. Sometimes, it drives me nuts that people don’t understand the greatness of some pieces and that they opt for mainstream.

TO SHOP THE CHLOÉ F/W 2020 COLLECTION, CLICK HERE PLEASE.icon

LoL, Sandra

Chloé F/W 2020 finale

Photos: © Chloé and © Sandra Bauknecht
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Tiffany Files Lawsuit Against LVMH

In November 2019, luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE confirmed that it has reached a $16.2 billion deal to buy American jeweller Tiffany & Co. For the previous post, click here please.

Yesterday, after months of speculation, LVMH has called off its planned mega-merger with the American jeweler. The result? Tiffany sinks 11% and is now suing the French luxury conglomerate to keep the acquisition on track. The jewelry giant alleged LVMH sought to leverage US social justice protests and the coronavirus pandemic to «avoid paying the agreed price for Tiffany shares.»

LVMH explained that the deal’s contract set a November 24 deadline, and that requests from Tiffany and the French government to delay the deal led to its pulling out. In return, Tiffany accused LVMH of not doing its part to win approval of the deal from antitrust authorities.

Tiffany’s famous 5th Avenue store in New York City

More details can be found in LVMH’s press release from yesterday: «After a succession of events which undermine the acquisition of Tiffany & Co, the Board of LVMH met to review the situation relating to the contemplated investment in light of these recent developments.

The Board learned of a letter from the French European and Foreign Affairs Minister which, in reaction to the threat of taxes on French products by the US, directed the Group to defer the acquisition of Tiffany until after January 6th, 2021. Furthermore, the Board noted Tiffany & Co.’s requested to extend the «Outside Date» in the Merger Agreement from November 24th to December 31st, 2020.

As a results of these elements, and knowledge of the first legal analysis led by the advisors and the LVMH teams, the Board decided to comply with the Merger Agreement signed in November 2019 which provides, in any event for a closing deadline no later than November 24th, 2020 and officially records that, as it stands, the Group LVMH will therefore not be able to complete the acquisition of Tiffany & Co.»

Key figure: Roger N. Farah, Chairman of the Board Tiffany & Co.

In course of Tiffany & Co.’s lawsuit in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware against LVMH Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton SE and related entities («LVMH»), Roger N. Farah, Chairman of the Board, said, «We regret having to take this action but LVMH has left us no choice but to commence litigation to protect our company and our shareholders. Tiffany is confident it has complied with all of its obligations under the Merger Agreement and is committed to completing the transaction on the terms agreed to last year. Tiffany expects the same of LVMH

He stated further, «We believe that LVMH will seek to use any available means in an attempt to avoid closing the transaction on the agreed terms. But the simple facts are that there is no basis under French law for the Foreign Affairs Minister to order a company to breach a valid and binding agreement, and LVMH’s unilateral discussions with the French government without notifying or consulting with Tiffany and its counsel were a further breach of LVMH’s obligations under the Merger Agreement. ‎Moreover, this supposed official French effort to retaliate against the U.S. for proposed new tariffs has never been announced or discussed publicly; how could it possibly then be an effort to pressure the U.S. into revoking the tariffs? Furthermore, as we are not aware of any other French company receiving such a request, it is all the more clear that LVMH has unclean hands.»

Tiffany CEO Alessandra Bogliolo in 2018

Tiffany emphasized that its business remained strong, with sales in the last three months of 2020 expected to exceed the same period last year and that the COVID-19 pandemic has not prevented other parties from making antitrust filings on a timely schedule.

Chief Executive Officer Alessandro Bogliolo underlined, »The fundamental strength of Tiffany’s business is clear. The company has already returned to profitability after just one quarter of losses, and we expect our earnings in the fourth quarter of 2020 will actually exceed the same period in 2019

The famous movie scene: Audrey Hepburn in «Breakfast at Tiffany’s».

Tiffany is seeking to expedite the Delaware proceedings to obtain a ruling prior to November 24, 2020 ordering LVMH to comply with its obligations and complete the transaction on the agreed terms.

An unpleasant turnaround of what we thought would become a love story of the luxury industry. I am very curious to see the outcome. I mean if LVMH walks away completely, Kering or Richmond might jump on the deal and acquire Tiffany. Stay tuned!

LoL, Sandra

Funny composite from the NY Post
Photos: Tiffany & Co., LVMH, Getty

LVMH Confirmed to Buy Tiffany & Co.

This morning, luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE confirmed that it has reached a $16.2 billion deal to buy American jeweller Tiffany & Co. There had been rumors for a long time about this blockbuster purchase. The largest luxury deal gives the famous French group, that is the world’s largest luxury conglomerate and Europe’s second-most valuable company, a bigger presence in jewelry and strengthen its position in the US.

Object of desire: An engagement ring by Tiffany & Co.

Jewelry is one of the best-performing luxury categories and is predicted to grow. The deal also allows LVMH to compete further with Swiss conglomerate Richemont, which owns Piaget, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, and a lot of watch brands.

Nevertheless, Tiffany & Co. has been facing weak demand and will likely need heavy investment to revamp its business. It will be an interesting journey we will surely follow… stay tuned!

LoL, Sandra

Photos: Courtesy of Tiffany and © Sandra Bauknecht

Alber Elbaz Teams Up with Richemont

Great news for the fashion world: luxury conglomerate Richemont is teaming up with former Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz for a new venture at a time when luxury goods groups are vying to make star hires.

«I am very happy to partner with Richemont and to establish my ‘dream factory,’ which will focus on developing solutions for women of our times,» Elbaz said in a statement.

Me with Alber Elbaz in 2015

Elbaz was born in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1961 to a Moroccan Jewish family. He immigrated to Israel with his family at the age of ten and grew up in Holon. After his studies at Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, he had jobs at Geoffrey Beene, Guy Laroche, Yves Saint Laurent where he designed the Rive Gauche collection under Saint Laurent himself, and Krizia.

Lanvin F/W 2012 campaign

He then began designing for Lanvin, France’s oldest fashion house, in 2001 and transformed the Maison from a small label with only 15 wholesale accounts to a global fashion house known for feminine, comfortable and clever ready-to-wear that earned the approval of celebrities, critics and customers alike. Elbaz’s simple, feminine clothing, which has been compared to Lanvin’s 1920s outfits, has been lauded by the fashion press. 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 2010, Elbaz launched for Lanvin a mass-market collection with H&M, and proved to be one of the retailer’s most popular annual runway collaboration series. In 2013, he created a much anticipated make-up collection for Lancôme.

Therefore the shock was huge when the announcement came that Elbaz had been let go from the fashion house due to major disagreements on strategy and targeted investment in 2015 with major shareholder Taiwanese businesswoman Shaw-Lan Wang. The house has since changed hands and failed to find its footing.

Shaw-Lan Wang and Alber Elbaz in happier times. Photo: BFA / The Cut

After Elbaz was abruptly fired from Lanvin, the industry has wondered when and how he might return to design full-time. Between then and now, he has turned his hand to designing accessories for LeSportsac, collaborated on a fragrance with luxury perfumer Frédéric Malle, and mentored at prestigious design schools. Recently, the star designer had his comeback For Elbaz, after having skipped several years of shows, watching the fashion industry shift from the sidelines. He designed a capsule collection of bags and shoes for luxury Italian brand Tod’s, called «Happy Moments.» Known for his charming and emotional personality, it couldn’t be a better match.

Alber Elbaz lives it up at Tod’s Happy Moments launch. Photo: Tod’s / Getty

«I like fashion, I like fashion people. But after Lanvin, I did not like fashion,» he told Elle Magazine in September 2019, «I needed to fall in love with fashion again.» To fall back in love with fashion took a lot of time. «Because you have to take a few years distance,» Elbaz continues earnestly.

A shoe from Tod’s Happy Moments collection created by Elbaz.

Now Elbaz has a partner for his next chapter. Today, Richemont  announced an agreement to form a joint venture with the designer, calling it AZfashion, which the Swiss luxury conglomerate described as «an innovative and dynamic start-up, meant to turn dreams into reality

As much as the fashion industry has anticipated Elbaz’s return, he and Richemont have their work cut out for them. The announcement about the new brand indicates a completely different approach in this new brand, which the designer told the New York Times will be project-based.

Feminine and dreamy designs: Lanvin F/W 2011 by Alber Elbaz

«Upon hearing Alber Elbaz describe his vision for fashion and the projects it inspires in him, I was again struck by his creativity and insight,» Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert said in a statement. «His talent and inventiveness, with his sensitivity towards women and their wellbeing, will be of great value to our group and its maisons.»

We will all be watching how Elbaz’ vision will transform… I am sure he will let us dream again… something that is desperately needed in today’s fashion world. Fashion should be fun and Elbaz will teach us!

LoL, Sandra

Me in a Lanvin by Alber Elbaz dress, click here for the post.

 Photo: © David Biedert Photography
Photos: Courtesy of the Brands, or otherwise mentioned

Falling for Mr Porter

One of my favourite online stores Net-à-Porter has started to receive the new pre-fall 2010 collections and I do not want you to miss this. The beginning of the season offers always so many stunning pieces. Here are some of them, already put together in complete outfits. The Burberry Prorsum jackets are divine just as the python prints by Stella McCartney. A belted cardigan is a must-have for next season, why not go for this Fendi one and think leather, leather, leather! The Burberry Prorsum pencil skirt below would be the perfect opportunity. Do you feel the same urge to push the “add to shopping bag” button like I do?!

Natalie Massenet

Natalie Massenet

As it has been a week of announcements, I have another one, this time for my male readers who probably feel a little left behind. Ten years to the day Net-à-Porter was founded and right after its acquisition by Richemont earlier this spring, the online shop`s founder Natalie Massenet and the Net-à-Porter family announced that they are adding a stand-alone menswear luxury retail site to the company, called Mr Porter. It will launch in January 2011 for next spring and will offer the most exclusive service along with style advice.  Brands like Balmain, Burberry, Lanvin, YSL and John Lobb, just to name a few, will make the stressed business man happy shopping from his desk. Or we could order for our men a little pre-selection to enjoy at home. I like it!mrporter.com_

LoL, Sandra