I needed to take the time to fall in love with fashion again. I needed to take the time to think.
– Alber Elbaz
“I went back to the past, I question the present, and I imagine the future,” the designer Alber Elbaz said, sitting in front of a broadcast table like anchor announcing the evening news which is the official launch of AZ Factory – a multipurpose company that includes fashion, project production, and communication – in partnership with the Compagnie Financière Richemont. Elbaz has taken a break from fashion since his firing from Lanvin in 2015, the French brand where he was creative director for 14 years.
The video presentation – a mash of backstage staging of a faux television program with Elbaz interjected in and out of the screen – as part of the official launch of AZ Factory with the immediate availability of some of the fashion product at the brand website as well as on Farfetch and Net-a-Porter in sort of a see now buy approach.
The first project or one story or one project at a time as the designer describes the actual – My Body – is a see now buy now with clothes available immediately following the presentation. The ‘My Body’ selection of clothes includes long sleeve black dresses with a large bow in the back, red or black dress with short puff sleeves, a range of separates like short sleeve tunic and leggings a one-shoulder stretch dress. These clothes are the kind found at the malls, well, a bit harder now since many malls have shut down, but they are not exactly the kind of clothes at the designer fashion level.
In the look book detailing other ‘project’ coming online soon, the ‘Super tech to Super chic’ section refers to more dress up black pantsuits or white dress with ruffle hems or even a black military coat. Another segment label as ‘Switch Wear from Leisure Wear to Fabulous’ is an entire collection of stretchy workout clothes mix in with some ‘evening’ numbers like a green one sleeve short dress. And throw in a bunch of colorful strapless and loud prints baggy pants and jackets and parkas.
The presentation shifted to the Italian factory Mas Italy. The technicians like Alessandro Marchini were working on perfecting a stretch dress, concentrating on the midsection to be more malleable and easier for walking. Meanwhile, at the studio, two women who wore versions of the stretch dress talked about the fit.
In the three projects presented here, these clothes are not exactly designer level but more in the range of a contemporary collection destined to more of a mass-market and perhaps a much younger audience than those that knew of Elbaz’s work. At best, a problematic strategy in a very crowded market where the style templates evolve forever faster pace.
But here is the thing. Being away from active fashion for five years in fashion, like in dog years, is the equivalent of 15 regular years.
Many of the dresses bear the hallmark of old Lanvin – the one shoulder, the bows, the bubble skirt, the tailored jacket, the dress with big sleeves, and so forth. In other words, the fashion looks are not new, and it is hard to say that they are relevant for this moment in time. Although the connection to high tech in the clothes’ fabrication is an interesting aspect of this launch, this high tech merger with fashion manufacturing isn’t new and isn’t unique. Even mass brands like Uniqlo has marketed high tech products for over a decade now.
Surely, Elbaz’s old Lanvin consumers are far too old for these kinds of clothes, and the younger generation has other concerns and other kinds of taste that may not correspond to this aesthetic.
And it does not seem that Richemont is interested in a tiny size fashion business at this point with several of their other brands in transitions, notably Chloé.
Today, young consumers are very well educated about the fashion that they buy and the brands they choose to associate with. Younger consumers and younger audiences today also look up to not just a brand but someone at the brand they can speak with and speak to. This collection may not be excited enough to create loyal fans who will adopt the products.