Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you are the only woman in the room. Which is exactly how I felt Friday night at his party to celebrate — a year late — the opening of the Lanvin boutiques on Rodeo Drive and in Malibu.
Katie Holmes, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Zoe Saldana, Demi Moore, Rachel Zoe, Liz Goldwyn, Jacqui Getty, Dita Von Teese and Eva Chow were among the super-stylish guests who gathered at the 1928 Carondelet House near downtown Los Angeles for a runway showing of the spring 2012 collection, followed by dinner.
And in true Alber style, he charmed everyone. Maybe it was the velvet bow tie as wide as his smile, the crinkly notes he took to the microphone when he introduced his spring collection, which started with the idea of angels in a hellish world, or the sketch he drew to explain his starting point for the season's strong-shouldered silhouette. It could also have been his self-deprecating humor. Elbaz often makes fun of his weight, so in the grand Hollywood tradition, he brought a slightly more svelte cardboard body double with him.
It certainly was a posh-looking crowd, dressed in Lanvin one-shoulder gowns, crystal rose necklaces and poufy floral print taffeta cocktail dresses. There were party favors too. On each seat, there was a Lanvin doll to hold. (Lanvin is collaborating with a charity in Africa that makes the dolls, Elbaz explained.) And in the dining room, lit by chandeliers, decorative feathered hats suspended in the air doubled as festive headgear.
Before the models came out (Elbaz flew in his favorites from New York) he started by explaining that he fell in love with Los Angeles not because of the movie business but because of the people — and how they have invited him into their homes. His inspiration, he said, is always women. "Lanvin is a women-friendly company," he said of the house, whose logo is a mother and a daughter. "I work with them and for them. I love active women, women who make it happen instead of waiting for it to happen to them."
Then a carpet was rolled out, and the show began. On the runway was pure gorgeousness — from a simple black dress with built-out shoulders to a jaw-dropping gold and copper lame pleated gown. It was a treat to see the clothes in such an intimate setting, because you could really appreciate the thoughtful details--like the dress with a back slit stitched closed at the hem (sexy but secure), and the pencil skirt with subtle ruching creating an ever-so-slightly bunched-up, but beautiful effect (imperfect glamour). Accessories ranged from oversized attache cases to crystal winged belts for women on the move.
For all the Champagne and the sparkle, I could have sat all night and just watched Elbaz sketch. It came so easily to him and his drawings are so chic and cheerful. (They appear occasionally on Lanvin T-shirts and accessories.)
At breakfast Friday, he told me his next big project is a 700-page book, to be published by Steidl early next year, telling the story in photographs and words of creating a single Lanvin collection. It's only fitting that the book begins with blank white pages. "That is how I start every day," Elbaz said.
— Booth Moore
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Top photo: Scene from the Lanvin party on Friday in Los Angeles. Credit: Booth Moore / For the Times
Second row left to right: Dita Von Teese, Liz Goldwyn and Zoe Saldana. Courtesy of Lanvin.
Third row left to right: Elle Fanning, Gia Coppola, Alex Koo, Alber Elbaz, Demi Moore. Courtesy of Lanvin.
Bottom photos: Models in spring 2012 Lanvin collection. Courtesy of Lanvin.