Alber Elbaz On Being A ‘Closet Case’ & The One Word To Never Say

Being in the same room as as Lanvin‘s Alber Elbaz is quite the humbling experience. We’ve long admired his work, and he’s one of the funniest and most down-to-earth designers, so sitting in on his “Master Class” chat with Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey on Monday was a real treat.

Clad in a dark coat and adorable knit beanie, Elbaz, amongst many other things, cracked fat jokes about himself, reminisced about being in charge of entertainment while serving the mandatory three-year service in the Israeli army, and laughed about designing mother-of-the-brides dresses from crêpe de Chine (“I was doing MOB in CDC, it sounded more like a disease”).

While he remained polite and diplomatic about John Galliano’s racist breakdown and return to fashion (“I hope the world will forgive him”), he was more than happy to talk about his first job at Geoffrey Beene in the late 1980s. During his seven-year stint at the house, he definitely picked up more than one tip along the way from the late designer, but he learned the most important thing within his first month there: never use the word “commercial”.

He explained to Bailey:

“I was there for seven and a half years, and you know, when I started at Geoffrey Beene, they didn’t have a place for me in the studio so they actually gave me a little table in the dressing room. That was the place that was available, so I was actually a ‘closet case’. I remember one day, my English was not good at the time and is not perfect now, but I remember all these crazy clothes he was doing and quite bizarre for me. One day, it was just a simple piece, and I said, ‘Wow, it’s such a commercial piece!’ And I saw Mr. Beene go, like, really red and pink and yellow, and he said, ‘Alber, can I see you for a second?’ And I go, [happily] ‘Sure!’ And he goes, ‘Don’t you ever say commercial. Say desirable.’ And I knew that moment that I was introduced to the industry of desire, and it’s not just about commercial because nobody today can define commercial. What is commercial? Cheap is commercial, logo is commercial, hip — what is commercial? I think that desire and desirable piece is what we are doing, and this is what our industry is all about — desire.”

Indeed it is. Sigh. Check out Lanvin’s incredibly desirable fall 2013 collection in the video below:

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