Alber Elbaz, who greatly influences the fashion industry, has launched a new project “AZ Factory.” He is an important person who has been reigning at the top for a long time in this rapidly changing industry. Albert was born in Casablanca, Morocco in 1961 and grew up in Tel Aviv, Israel from the age of 10. Raised by his mother after losing his father as a child, he studied fashion at the Shenkar College of Textile Technology & Fashion in Tel Aviv and graduated in 1988. After that, he moved to the United States and worked for “Geoffrey Beene,” a purveyor to the upper class in the United States, for seven years. Later, becoming the head designer of the ready-to-wear division “Guy Laroche” in 1997. The following year, by the request of Yves Saint Laurent, he worked on the design for the ready-to-wear division “Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche.” From 2001 to 2015, he was the artistic director of “Lanvin,” and his unique, modern vision and attractive design regained the reputation of the well-established Maison. Many women opposed Alber’s leaving, and 330 employees protested his dismissal. After being away from the luxuary fashion industry for a while, he established a joint venture with Compagnie Financière Richemont and launched the ready-to-wear brand “AZ Factory” on January 27th.
The brand’s goal is to incorporate advanced programs and technologies into traditional craftsmanship to create the best solution and story for all women. The collection was presented as a 25-minute film. A scene was projected in which 20 models of various body shapes, from 18 to 70 years old, wearing dresses or printed pajamas danced and rejoiced on the stage. He has approached both functionality and fashion such as a knit material with excellent elasticity that can handle sizes from XXS to 4XL and dresses that are easy for one person to put on and take off.
Alber, who has many fans in Japan, visited Japan as a guest designer of Converse’s Japan-only project “Avant Converse” after leaving “Lanvin.” At that time, he said, “I immediately agreed with the proposal from ‘Itochu,’ who has built a good relationship for many years,” and posted many photos of his stay in Japan on Instagram. This time, I asked Alber about his love for Japan and his new brand “AZ Factory.”
Japanese culture, where tradition and innovation coexist without overemphasis
――How did you spend the years between leaving “Lanvin” in 2015 and the launch of “AZ Factory”?
Alber Elbaz：I was just traveling to meet friends all over the world. The purpose is to meet friends in person, not sightseeing like going to museums or temples, in order to go back to the past and ask myself about the present. And yet, I went forward imagining the future. Throughout the trip, I thought and learned in conversations with friends and ask myself in my own time; What’s next in fashion and what’s next for me? What would make me happy?
――Why did you collaborate on “Converse Japan” while you were away from work?
Alber：I met the licensed “Itochu” and “Converse Japan” people and felt that I could work with peace of mind. I didn’t have to overdo it because I was on break, but I felt like I wanted to do it. This feeling is essential in creation.
――You have been to Japan many times. What is your impression of Japan?
Alber：I’ve been to Japan many times. Every time I come to Japan, I like it more. There is kind of a contradiction between tradition and innovation, but these two coexist without overemphasizing each other creates a beautiful harmony. Japanese traditional aesthetics remain part of life, such as architecture, food and clothing, shaping today and inheriting tomorrow.
More than anything, I like Japan for its people. I have very good friends living there and I always enjoy coming back.
――Who is your favorite Japanese artist?
Alber：I love to work of Yayoi Kusama because it represents what Japanese art is for me: colorful, happy, optimistic, surrealism… I’ve been following her work and love what she is doing.
――During the break, how did you feel when you visited many countries?
Alber：I watched the world around me reach a turning point. I had some boring days as time went by in contrast to the days I was always working on collections, though I realized that boredom is maybe the best ingredient for creativity. Some day, things changed. I found myself walking in the rain, not knowing if I had tears on my face or if it was just the rain.
After so many years of deadlines, I had the luxury to meet myself again and think on a larger scale. I felt liberated to create my own new dreams. Throughout traveling the world, I met many investors who only wanted to see business plans and price tags. I went to Palo Alto because I was fascinated with the new technology and met engineers and more people at the factories. This virtual, digital world inspired me to try to find a synergy between tradition and newness. I felt that this was the next fashion and could fill my heart with happiness, so I founded “AZ Factory.”
Challenge to support and make women look attractive.
ーーWhat made you return to the fashion industry?
Alber：WOMEN! I looked at the people around me—the women around me—my friends. Women were at the heart of it from day one, the first minute. I’ve been trying to understand women for decades as a womenswear designer, and I’m still learning. While away from the industry, it was also a valuable opportunity to observe women’s fashion from a fresh and easy-going perspective. It has always been and will continue to be my challenge to support and make women in this world look attractive. I want to create solutions for women.
――Please tell us more about “AZ Factory.”
Alber：”AZ Factory” is a production and communication company rather than a fashion house. It’s a new company for us, not just me. A and Z are the first and last letters of my name. AZ is symbolic for me because I believed we needed a reset. To start from A again.
At the same time, living in beauty has been and always very important to me. I want to make solutions that project confidence, comfort, and beauty. I dreamed to make a dress, just a simple one; a dress holds you when you need it.
――What would you like to bring to the world through its project?
Alber：An opportunity to give people a dream and go back to the basics of fashion. Go back to the essence of Couture; be a laboratory and an experience. It is also about made to measure – carefully crafting for each body. Couture, for me, stands for experiments around the body. “AZ Factory” is a place to generate new ideas and technologies that would have been tested many times and later translated for the masses.