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20 Alber Elbaz

Interview with Alber Elbaz : “On Zoom, I was far too busy watching myself to be able to concentrate on what people were actually saying”


The iconic designer’s return to the limelight has been eagerly awaited by fashion fans. After it was recently announced he’ll soon be launching his own brand, with the Richemont group, Numéro caught up with him for a good old chinwag on Zoom.

Albert Elbaz by Alex Koo. Albert Elbaz by Alex Koo.
Albert Elbaz by Alex Koo.

Numéro: I’m in a pit of despair, at the end of my tether...
Alber Elbaz: I guess we’re all holding hands with you together.


And why am I feeling that way? It’s been five years since you left Lanvin and are no longer on the fashion calendar. Enough!

Actually it’s been four years. Time goes by very fast. I needed some time to fall in love again with fashion. And, as we all know, it takes time to find the right one and to fall in love.


Fashion isn’t the same without you, I’ve already said it a thousand times! 

Happy to be missed. There’s a beautiful fairy tale, A Thousand and One Nights, so since you’ve told me a thousand times, you’ll have to say it just one more time and I’ll be back!


How do you see your return to the limelight at a moment in time when everything is being shaken up?
As you know, I have never been a distracter. So I will do it my way, in a nice way, like I always do.


Where are you right now?

At home in Paris. I’m a real hypo- chondriac, so I always prefer to be in Paris, a big city, next to a hospital, just in case... Specially now!


So how are you coping with confinement at the moment?
I’m not. Every time there’s a delivery, I feel the enemy is going to attack me. It’s a surreal time, every knock at the door creating fear in me. And that goes against my philosophy of life, not opening the door for others. I must say, we’re going through a bizarre moment. These are very strange times and sad long days for me and for all of us.


What existential questions does isolation give you time to think about? 

It’s been difficult. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t work, I became addicted to bad news. Hearing all the news from France, America, Israel, Italy, Spain, China – the whole world. Catastrophic news, endless fear. Until I finally turned off the news and started to listen to music. Music I love. I feel like I’m in a bubble now, in a cloud. I hope I fly with my imagination.


What’s your new routine in quarantine like, besides learning to mop the floor and fold your own clothes and cook for yourself?

I didn’t spend a single dollar in two weeks, but instead spent quality time with my loved ones, my family, my friends and colleagues. Real quality time. I always believed human beings were mastering nature. Now I know – we all know – that human beings are just part of nature.


Are you asking yourself questions like “Who am I really?” or “What are we all doing here?”?
Those questions are the usual sus- pects. This is the story of my life. Nothing new there.


Are you convinced, like me, that we’re all going to die and that every night the Grim Reaper is there, waiting outside the bedroom window, eager to come in?

I usually like windows, because I love to see the world through them. Sometimes I feel that if this pandemic continues for a long time, it would be less scary to die and scarier to live.



“I love 99% of the people in the world. I dislike 1%. I will leave you to guess who that 1% is.”



That sounds pretty pessimistic...

I’m a very pessimistic person in the short term, but always very optimistic in the long term. I want to believe things will get better and life will be beautiful again. HOPE!


So how exactly are you spending your days at home?
I was trying very hard to be calm and zen, then I started using Zoom and I was no longer in the least bit zen! I feel it is more appropriate for me to speak or call people privately, one on one. Support my team. On Zoom, I was far too busy watching myself – seeing how I looked – to be able to concentrate on what people were actually saying. Life is a zoo.


Do you think that once this pandemic is finally over, humanity will come out of it wiser?
It depends how long it takes. I believe our brain is trained to deal with post trauma. I want to believe that we should go back to some modesty, humbleness and simplicity. We were living crazy marathons of more, faster, bigger. Maybe this is the time for reflection. Time and beauty are my definitions of luxury.


Who are the people you miss most during this period of confinement? 

Everybody I know and love. I miss my colleagues, my friends, my family... I miss pure oxygen. I miss seeing people smile. I miss sitting out in the park. I actually miss all the simple things in life. I miss washing my hands three times a day rather than 30 times.


And who are the people that you really don’t miss?
I love 99% of the people in the world. I dislike 1%. I will leave you to guess who that 1% is.


Have you worked your entire list of contacts to get yourself a box of chloroquine pills?
Nothing to be found in any pharmacy. I remind myself not to take anything unless my wonderful doctor prescribes it to me.


What do you think the knock-on effects of the virus will be for the fashion industry? Will there still be runway shows? Will shopping have to move entirely online?

Time will tell. Fashion isn’t only about runway shows or online. Fashion is not all white or black, fashion is not minimal or maximal. Fashion is life, and like in life we always need a balance. We need to find the middle, without being mediocre.


Do you think this pandemic will permanently change our relationship to others?
I have no idea, I don’t use Tinder, I couldn’t tell.


Personally I’m completely devas- tated at not having seen my editor-in-chief, Babeth, for three whole weeks now.

Me too! Me too! Me too!


If ever I fell victim to COVID-19, would you dress me for my coffin? 

Absolutely not! Philip, I’m sure you’re much more robust than COVID-19. The Pasteur Institute needs you. Help!