Alber Elbaz: “Loudness Is the New Cool … I Prefer Whispering”

It just so happens that on Thursday night, the same day that Raf Simons announced he was leaving Dior, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz was honored at the 32nd annual Night of Stars in New York. As if reading Simons’ mind, he spoke of industry pressures, the scourge of selfies, and not clapping at fashion shows anymore. Here are the highlights…

Tonight, the Fashion Group is giving me the award as a revolutionary at the Night of Stars. People who make revolutions are often considered courageous and fearless. They’re not afraid of changing the system when the system no longer works. I personally don’t like the word revolution. I like evolution, I always did. Evolution, not revolution. Evolution lives longer and better in history books. Revolution looks great, but only on TV. Revolution photographs well, really well, on the screen — drama, screaming, crying. Revolution is actually very photogenic. We live in a time of being photogenic.

I was asked the other day if I had a personal Instagram. I said, “Not really,” and they said, “How come?” And I said, “I don’t really have photogenic friends, I only have good friends. And I also don’t take photos of the food. I eat food.” But I’m addicted to Instagram, I love it. I just met Kevin, the founder of Instagram, and I love him for being so smart. Not just smart, but humble — and that’s a nice combination.

During Fashion Week in Paris, I spoke with a few editors I know, and I asked, “Hey, how are you?” And they said, “Exhausted.” They said to me that they used to see 50 shows a week, now they have to see 50 shows a day. I spoke with a few writers in Paris and they said the same thing. They used to write their review in a taxi, having an apple — and I’m not talking Apple computer, just a green apple — in between shows. That’s how they gave us our verdict.

Now they have to do it during the show, with no apple, and stay long hours, and with no time to digest. And we know that fashion people don’t eat much, don’t we? The fashionistas are very, very busy during the show, filming everything. And when I came out after the show, I felt that there was no clapping. And I asked, “What’s going on?” And they said, “They are filming, they don’t have two hands, so what can they do?” My friend Ronnie Newhouse, who lives in London, suggested to create a new app for clapping, so you can film, Instagram, and clap all at the same time.

We designers, we started as couturiers, with dreams, with intuition, with feeling, with thought. What do women want? What do women need? What can I do for a woman to make her life better and easier? How can I make a woman more beautiful? That is what we used to do. Then we became creative directors, so have to create, but mostly direct. And now we have to become image-makers, creating a buzz, making sure that it looks good in the pictures. The screen has to scream, baby. That’s the rule. And loudness is the new thing, loudness is the new cool, and not only in fashion, you know. I prefer whispering. I think it goes deeper, and I think it stays longer.

It seems to me sometimes that it’s almost more important that the dress looks good in the photos than it looks good on the body, or feels good on the body. And sometimes when I’m in the store, and I see a client trying on dresses, I see that before even going to the mirror, they just take a selfie and look at themselves in the selfie, and tell me what they like about the belt. Maybe the selfie is becoming the new mirror. If that’s the case, and we will not have mirrors in the world, who will tell us the truth?

We are living today in a smart world, a word of very smart design. Today it’s all about smart design, smart thinking, smart product, technology, units, rapidity. Adidas says: The future is now. Today a 12-year-old girl living in the middle of nowhere with technology can see all the shows in Paris live. The show, the front row, the backstage, the celebrity. Wow, technology makes her dream come true. That girl, like many others, is living her dream. But can we imagine a world without dreams? A world without dreams is not always a beautiful world. Dreams make us go forward. Dreams make me run forward. And people who know me know that I don’t like to run in the park.

There are many actresses and actors here tonight, and they are all here to support us fashion people. And I love movies, and I love Hollywood. Films make me fly, they make me dream. Films make me cry. They also make me laugh. I can only see a movie in a movie theater because I need the dark, I need the dream, I need the large popcorn. And I can never decide if I want it salty or sweet, so I ask for half-and-half. Shall I eat the salty first and then the sweet? Or first sweet and then the salty? It depends on my mood. But again, today, with so much information, I know too much about so many things. I know where the actress lives. I saw her picture in a white bikini in Cannes, on a yacht. I saw her engagement ring of eight carats that she just got from her very new and very young boyfriend, in very new Mexico. So all I do while I’m watching these movies is thinking: Do I like her ring? Do I like her new haircut in the movie? I actually don’t like her shoes in the movie. And where is the dream?

I’m not against technology. I’m embracing technology. I love newness. I respect smart design. I love smart people. I love most good people, people with heart. I believe that the biggest change in fashion will come because of technology and with technology. But the real evolution — not revolution — will happen when tradition and know-how, and human touch, and beauty, and newness, and technology, will become one.

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