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2009 October 5

The Ascendance of Alber?

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Alber Elbaz, post-show with Clotilde Courau and Julie Gayet Alber Elbaz, post-show with Clotilde Courau and Julie Gayet
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(PARIS) Back in June, Diane Pernet's A Shaded View on Fashion blog reported a rumor (just a rumor!) that Karl Lagerfeld was stepping down at Chanel, Alber Elbaz was headed to the house, and Olivier Theyskens just might take over at Lanvin. All these rumors (just rumors!) were promptly denied by both Lanvin and Chanel. "He was going to die with his boots on," reported Cathy Horyn during the couture shows in July of Lagerfeld's response to these suggestions. "He also mentioned that Alain Wertheimer, whose family owns Chanel, said he would sell the house when the designer leaves. This might not be the case, Mr. Lagerfeld said, but it was a nice thing to be told."

But in the hours after Lanvin's almost universally-acclaimed show on Friday night, talk of Elbaz's future began anew. "It was almost like he was saying, 'Look at what I can do,'" said a top retailer. "He has the ready-to-wear, the accessories, the personality, all the attention of the press...that larger-than-life-ness that is required to run a house like Chanel." Editorial types concurred. "Karl is Karl--even at 76, he is the most prolific designer in fashion. Who else works on his level?" wondered one magazine fashion director. "But this show was so good that it almost proved if anyone else can even think about doing Chanel, it's Alber."

Elbaz's career has been marked by a consistent display of restraint and a passion for draping--very different from the bourgeois chic that Lagerfeld has elevated and occasionally parodied at Chanel. Should Elbaz eventually end up at the house, expect things to look very different.
ASHLEY BAKER




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