Al∫e® El∫Az fO® lAnVin
Lanvin, in its second season, is fast becoming a name to watch on the menswear map. Designer for the house Alber Elbaz, ponders the difference of men and women’s roles in society and how that is reflected in his designs.
Another Man: How do you find designing menswear? How different is it to womenswear? Alber Elbaz: First of all, I don’t do all the design myself. There is a team and I give them a lot of credit – in fact all the credit – for the work that is being done. I waited five years before I started doing menswear at Lanvin. I didn’t want to do it until I was ready with the womenswear, until I knew that I had enough codes to draw on. My goal when I started working on menswear was to take the same story I had introduced to the women’s collection and re-work it for men. To create something that is fragile enough, and that is poetic enough, but that doesn’t reference someone else or another era. As women get stronger and stronger, men, in a way, are getting a little less so. And when men get a little bit less strong they become more beautiful. AM: Why do you think that is? AB: Women are becoming very powerful and men have to adjust to that. I think men are adjusting to changes in society by becoming more fragile. You have to go with the mood of what men want today. We are seeing, all of a sudden, more cosmetics for men. Men are very aware of their look and they want to look good as well. Men also now shop differently – they don’t just let their wives and girlfriends do it for them, they want to do it themselves. I see many men coming to the women’s boutique with their wives, and they are not embarrassed about saying, ‘You know, I love that red coat.’ The barriers between men and women are moving and they are becoming more equal but in a different way to how women wanted to be equal to men in the 80s, when we saw big shoulders. I find that today, the shoulder is changing somehow for men and for women. Shoulders and heels are the two elements that change most from one era to another. You can identify a year most of the time by either looking at shoulders or heels. AM: So what’s happening to men’s shoulders? AB: They’re maybe becoming rounder, more soft. When I started thinking about what the story for menswear would be, I wanted to create a look that wouldn’t make a man look too much like a transvestite if he wore it on the street. It’s not enough to have a great show. Go to the stores and look at the clothes after three or four months, you’ll see a total difference between what was in the show and what you see in reality. What I’m trying to do is push the same idea we had in the show into the stores. And I think that even if you work and you create things and you dream, and you bring thought and fantasy to the clothes, in the end, it has to work on the street. That’s especially true for men because, in the end, they won’t want to look like lunatics or like girls. So, even if
you are thinking about fragility, you take a man’s simple cardigan and you add big velvet buttons so it becomes a little bit different. Or you take a man’s shirt and maybe you replace two buttons with two pearls, not all of them, just two. There is emotion, there is a sensitivity, but it’s nothing too much. AM: It’s quite a relaxed look. AB: Men, unlike women, will not buy anything unless it’s comfortable, so the whole idea of being relaxed is extremely important. Women will buy a shoe two sizes too big or too small if they love it. But that gives you a headache. Try it, I’m telling you. I also have the tendency to buy shoes in the wrong size, and when you wear them you start getting nauseous after a few hours. AM: So, you’re saying that, apart from you, men are more sensible than women when they buy clothes. AB: They are more pragmatic about their look. Women are more pragmatic in life. AM: The proportions of the collection are quite interesting, maybe slightly off. AB: Yes, because, once again, you change the design. You take a cardigan, and you make it just a little bit too long. That’s it. You make a coat a little too short. That’s it. And I think it’s good to go back to simplicity, not laziness, but to go back to the essence, to the ABC of designing. I’m also a romantic person. Romanticism, if we look it up in a dictionary, is a desire to go back to the past. Why do we want to look to the past? Because it’s a bit more protective. At the same time, the end result is much more twisted, it’s much more nervous. It’s about missing perfection, about not being perfect, and I think that imperfection brings tension, and tension, for me, is the most modern thing. You know, when things don’t work. AM: Do you think of yourself when you design menswear? AB: Of course, but you know that I can’t wear anything that I’m working on because I’m too fat! AM: That seems maybe a little perverse. AB: Yes, but that’s a fantasy, that’s my fantasy. I love the idea that I can’t wear the clothes, so it’s almost like what I’d love to have. It’s like having a taste of the cake or being able to smell it in the street outside the bakery shop, but not having the money to buy it. Interview Susannah Frankel
Hair Kevin Ford at Naked Artists for Headmasters Make-up Florrie White at D+V using Dermalogica Model Bogdan at FM Photographic assistant Stephen Nielson Styling assistant Robbie Spencer Casting Shelley Durkan Casting Processing Metro