Lanvin’s designer, Alber Ebaz, has been garnering rave reviews for his SS16 show just presented in Paris. As usual it was beautiful, wearable and highly desirable, combining the elegance of black with bright shots of colour and signature Lanvin embellishment.
The designer was inspired for this collection by working on two exhibitions. Earlier this year, Paris’s Galliera museum gave us a blockbuster on the work of Madame Lanvin from the early to mid-twentieth century, featuring some exceptional antique couture (see a review here). Now a second, smaller exhibition shows us Alber Ebaz’s work for Lanvin and there is as much to love about this one, though it is a very different exhibition; a must-see if you are in Paris before 31 October.
Alber Ebaz/Lanvin Manifesto at the Maison Europeene de la Photographie documents the process of creativity at Lanvin from sketches to catwalk. For a designer who does not even have an email address, this exhibition is his way of presenting the bare bones of his method to the world. He does it beautifully.
We see sketches and swatches and tear-sheets: the embryonic ideas. There is a short video showing workers in the atelier, described by the designer as being like a laboratory. They might re-make a piece six or seven times, experimenting with it until they are happy. The process itself throws up new ideas that sometimes emerge as new pieces or variations.
We also see some of the clothes, partly finished and presented on stockman mannequins as if they are work-in-progress. I found these half-finished dresses hauntingly beautiful, almost the ghostly shades of gowns not yet completed or inhabited. Originally intended as a way of showing off the work of the atelier and their couture-like skills, it seems that this also inspired the designer for this latest collection, that was filled with raw edges and seemingly unfinished elements.
This fascinating exhibition is accompanied by a beautiful little book of the same title, featuring the thoughts and observations of the designer himself. His outlook may be practical and commercial – he observes that success in fashion is all about inspiring desire rather than satisfying need – but he also draws inspiration from everything around him, some of it conceptual (ketchup offered in a Chinese restaurant*) and some of it simply from watching women in their clothes.
I sometimes start working by sitting in cafes and looking at women, going out and looking at women. I learn so much.
Reading this reminded me of the moment in Wim Wenders’s documentary, A Notebook on Cities and Clothes, in which the Japanese designer, Yohji Yamamoto explains that with his collections, he is reaching out to women to help them to achieve whatever they are striving for; simply to say: “Can I help you?”.
Perhaps both of these star designers are reminding us that sometimes genius lies in the simplest things.