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Ralph Lauren Designed a Bear Sweater in Homage to Alber Elbaz

Women's Wear Daily (WWD) logoWomen's Wear Daily (WWD) 9/27/2021 Miles Socha
Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, Alber Elbaz posing for the camera © John Aquino/WWD

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According to Ralph Lauren, Alber Elbaz was larger than life.

“But in a humble way. Whenever we met, I was touched by his warmth and his special joy for living,” Lauren related. “He always said he preferred to whisper than be loud and his designs reflected that quiet beauty. He brought a genuine integrity to his craft and the way he lived.”

Lauren is one of 44 designers who agreed to create looks in homage to the late designer for AZ Factory’s “Love Brings Love” tribute show on Oct. 5 that will close out Paris Fashion Week.

The American designer came up with a version of his iconic bear sweater that resembles Elbaz’s signature look.

“It’s a reflection of his personal style, appreciation of craftsmanship and his subtle sense of humor,” Lauren said.

Elbaz’s upstart fashion house AZ Factory shared the complete list of participating designers, from emerging talents to those helming Europe’s most famous heritage brands: Besides Lauren, the others are Pieter Mulier of Alaïa, Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen, Demna Gvasalia of Balenciaga, Olivier Rousteing of Balmain, Daniel Lee of Bottega Veneta, Riccardo Tisci of Burberry, Charaf Tajer of Casablanca, Gabriela Hearst of Chloé, Maria Grazia Chiuri of Dior, Christopher John Rogers, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, Dries Van Noten, Kim Jones of Fendi, Giambattista Valli, Giorgio Armani, Matthew Williams of Givenchy, Alessandro Michele of Gucci, Guo Pei, Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski of Hermès, Iris Van Herpen in collaboration with Adobe, Jean Paul Gaultier, Bruno Sialelli of Lanvin, Jonathan Anderson of Loewe, Nicolas Ghesquière of Louis Vuitton, Virgil Abloh of Off-White, Raf Simons, Rick Owens, Rosie Assoulin, Chitose Abe of Sacai, Anthony Vaccarello of Saint Laurent, Daniel Roseberry of Schiaparelli, Simone Rocha, Stella McCartney, Thebe Magugu, Thom Browne, Tomo Koizumi, Pierpaolo Piccioli of Valentino, Donatella Versace of Versace, Guram Gvasalia of Vetements, Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren of Viktor & Rolf, Vivienne Westwood and Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood, Grace Wales Bonner and Glenn Martens of Y/Project.

Prominent names absent from the list include Chanel, Prada, Marc Jacobs and Celine, whose creative director Hedi Slimane once worked alongside Elbaz at Yves Saint Laurent.

Each designer was given carte blanch to create a bespoke look inspired by Elbaz’s legacy or a special take on an iconic silhouette.

The AZ Factory studio and atelier is also producing multiple looks for the display.

Owens told WWD he’s “absolutely delighted to send out a message of unity and community and wish we had done it while he was here.

“I always enjoyed Alber’s gentle, light hand with washed gazars in yummy colors, so I offered up one of my bombastic shapes interpreted in his delicate pink washed silk gazar,” he said.

Rocha also zeroed in on a feminine fabric.

“I have always admired Alber, his work and spirit, generosity and beauty, so I was honored to be asked to be a part of his tribute. I wanted to use a fabric we both love, silk taffeta, and I wanted to translate giant bows into his signature pink fuchsia,” she said.

“As much as anything else, Alber was a friend, and this was therefore an opportunity to show my affection as well as my respect,” Chiuri said. “I chose to focus on the creative and inventive joy of his designs. I thought it would be interesting to create an outfit combining Dior’s historic silhouette with his legendary sketches. The symbols, figures and words such as ‘love’ and ‘happy’ turn into the narrative of a unique creative spirit that brought so much to the world of fashion.”

Before his passing, Elbaz surprised with a live fashion show during Paris Fashion Week inspired by the Théâtre de la Mode, a traveling exhibition of miniature fashions devised by the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne after World War II to revive an industry ravaged by wartime shortages and German occupation.

“Fascinated by this uplifting story, Alber had long dreamt of uniting his wider fashion family for a new, modern iteration of its own,” AZ Factory said in a brief release. “This year, with the help of all those who loved him, AZ Factory will bring Alber’s biggest dream to life.”

The Paris event — with many of the participating designers present — will be livestreamed on, YouTube and Instagram.

“It’s about the industry coming together to pay homage to a great man, a great human being,” Alex Koo, Elbaz’s life partner, recently told WWD ahead of the event. “Let’s celebrate this beautiful moment, but also remind ourselves as well as the public what this industry represents — and how much we need beauty and creativity in this world.”

The runway outing promises to have the electricity of the shows Elbaz orchestrated during his acclaimed 14-year tenure at Lanvin. AZ Factory conscripted Elbaz’s longtime collaborators, including Etienne Russo of production house Villa Eugénie; makeup artist Pat McGrath; hairstylist Guido Palau; stylist and editor Babeth Djian, and musician Ariel Wizman for the soundtrack.

Elbaz launched AZ Factory — a venture with Compagnie Financière Richemont — last January by streaming a quirky fashion variety show that showcased cutting-edge “smart” fabrics, and the designer’s inimitable soigné touch. He also introduced a digitally driven business model hinged on projects rather than collections, and with storytelling, problem-solving and entertainment embedded in design, distribution and communications.


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