Many would argue that it’s a challenging time to launch a high-end luxury line. Alber Elbaz thinks it’s a perfect time to do so. As he put it, “When things are not great, we need fashion”. 5 years after being unceremoniously fired from his post as creative director of Lanvin, Alber Elbaz launched his long-awaited start-up AZFactory (azfactory.com). And when I say long, I mean LONG.
The Swiss luxury group Richemont and the beloved cultish designer first announced plans for their joint venture back in October 2019, which, quite frankly, feels like two lifetimes ago. The line was finally unveiled on Tuesday afternoon during an ambitious, if not a bit chaotic 25-minute film. It feels at times like an infomercial with a party-like atmosphere. Even though this is a high-end luxury line, not couture, it was shown in conjunction with Paris Haute Couture Week. The prices range from approximately $300 – $1700. Everything is sold exclusively on the AZ Factory website, on netaporter.com, and on farfetch.com.
Alber makes the perfect “point man”. He is preternaturally entertaining, charismatic, expressive, passionate, and optimistic. There is always a joy, whimsy, and a sense of humor to Alber’s otherwise serious designs. Alber animatedly speaks throughout the high energy film clip. He talks about his goal, which is to simplify, make fewer pieces (because there’s already so much out there), and most importantly, to find solutions and solve problems for women today. For Alber, that boils down to functional, versatile, seasonless wardrobe essentials made of couture-like techno fabrics with stretch.
Alber’s silhouette shaping dresses and athletic-inspired separates, sized from XXS – XXL, are meant to fit a wide range of sizes and go seamlessly from yoga and exercise to a zoom meeting. And later on, when we can finally congregate, they can be worn to dinner or to a soiree. To emphasize the point, Alber’s models are seen leaping, dancing, jumping. In some cases, they are laden with accessories (gold chain belts, diamante necklaces, humongous pearl necklaces, and earrings). I could do without the black veils.
On the models’ feet are Alber’s new signature Pointy Sneakers (they retail for $610). Alber says he made them pointy because women were telling him they missed leg-lengthening pumps, and he wanted to design something comfortable that would also be flattering and elongate the leg the way a pump does.
By the way, it is hard not to notice that on other runways, models were wearing such ridiculously uncomfortable shoes; they had a hard time standing up, let alone walking. At Iris van Herpen’s “Roots of Rebirth” video presentation, the shoe of choice was a high heeled pump with a very convoluted and pronounced winged affixture on the side.
At Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli showed platform boots and shoes so exaggerated and theatrical that they looked like they were made for Lady Gaga.
Like everyone else, I wasn’t sure what AZ Factory would look like until its launch, but I had a few ideas based on what I know about Alber. I have to say that the end result is not quite what I expected. I was thinking, or hoping, for something a bit chicer. At times I think Alber was trying too hard. Meanwhile, I also see vestiges of Alaia (the body con pieces), Donna Karan (the bodysuits), Norma Kamali (the sporty athleticism mixed with couture), Stephen Burrows (the graphic color-blocking), and Chanel (the black, white, gold and pearls).
There is always modernity and alluring femininity found in Alber’s designs, even when he mixes in menswear elements and active sportswear. Alber’s clothes are sexy, elegant, and chic. Dresses are always important for Alber, so it’s not surprising that he chose the most iconic piece in a woman’s wardrobe: the little black dress for his inaugural product. He shows it in several iterations.
There are also dresses in white, red, yellow, green, and fuchsia. Some are asymmetrical, some have removable bows, some twist to one side, some have pronounced zippers that Alber specifically designed with extra-long pulls to make them easy to zip up without asking your husband for help.
Speaking of help, we could all use a little help from our friends. Especially now. Alber’s film began and ended with cameos of fashion’s biggest names (Anna Wintour, Rick Owens, Marc Jacobs, Pierpaolo Picciolo) sending Alber their love and best wishes. As Alber explained, “I love fashion people. We have such a bad reputation, but we have such a great industry.”