alber elbaz
Credit: Getty Images

Alber Elbaz was more than just a fashion designer. The shocking death of the former Lanvin creative director in Paris on Saturday at the age of just 59 is not only a loss for all those who love beautiful clothes, but has sparked genuine grief across the whole world of fashion. We not only lost a wonderful artist, we lost a wonderful man.

Alber was a beloved character in an industry full of characters. A red carpet favorite of Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian and Sarah Jessica Parker, he was a pioneer in transforming the relationship between fashion, Hollywood, and the high street. “I’ve had the time to observe and live a life not as a fashion designer but just as a human being,” he once observed.

Speaking personally, his career was an inspiration to me – from his time at Guy Laroche and Yves Saint Laurent, as well as his groundbreaking tenure at Lanvin. I can still recall how as a semi-terrified junior editor I met him in person for the first time during a Lanvin resort appointment many years ago. I was attending with the team from Harper’s Bazaar including our leader Glenda Bailey, who was a longtime friend of Alber’s.

I needn’t have been so nervous: Alber was nothing but kind, generous with his time, and inclusive to everybody – even the most junior editors in the room. As we walked into the buzzing studio where the informal fashion show was being held, Glenda went up to Alber and embraced him. The warmth they shared filled the room. He then introduced himself to each of us and I was impressed that a legendary designer would take the time to individually greet a room full of press and buyers.

My experience was not unique – warmth and generosity defined the man. I immediately recalled this story when I read Dior designer Maria Grazia Chiuri’s words this weekend that he was the “first person who made [her] feel at home in the fashion industry.” I fully agree.

Alber also understood the power of putting on a good show. Years after that first encounter, in Paris for one of my very first seasons, I attended Alber’s 10th anniversary Lanvin celebrations. In an immense warehouse on the Left Bank, an array of celebrities, editors, and industry icons gathered to toast his genius as a parade of his signature bold colors and perfect cocktail dresses dazzled us all. As the show reached its finale, Alber took his bow and sang “Que Sera Sera” as confetti rained from the ceiling, the champagne flowed, and cheers erupted from the crowd. It remains one of my fondest fashion memories.

Alber was a gifted designer and charismatic showman, but he was adored across the industry first and foremost for his warmth, grace, and positivity. Passionate about his work, but also about those who wore his creations, he was guided by a simple ethos: that his designs should make women feel both beautiful and full of joy.