Israeli designer Alber Elbaz dies aged 59

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Israeli designer Alber Elbaz dies aged 59

World famous designer's work attracted an array of celebrities, including Beyonce, Natalie Portman, Kim Kardashian and Michelle Obama

Alber Elbaz with actress, model, filmmaker, and fashion designer Chloe Sevigny 
(Credit Image: A© Ed Geller/Globe P)
Alber Elbaz with actress, model, filmmaker, and fashion designer Chloe Sevigny (Credit Image: A© Ed Geller/Globe P)

Alber Elbaz, a designer who earned the affection of his clients for not defying the natural contours of their bodies, has died at 59.

Elbaz, an Israeli who was born in Morocco, died Saturday in Paris from COVID-19.

He studied at the Shenkar school of design near Tel Aviv. In 1985, his mother encouraged him to pursue his passion for fashion design in New York. He dropped the “t” at the end of his first name so Americans would pronounce “Alber” as he had been raised to say it.

Elbaz moved up quickly at a number of fashion houses, but his most notable years were with Lanvin from 2001 to 2015.

His designs there attracted an array of celebrities, including Beyonce, Natalie Portman, Kim Kardashian and Michelle Obama. He insisted on designs that could accommodate women where they lived and not where a fashion industry that often idealised the female figure to a fault dictated they should be.

Elbaz wanted everyday women to appreciate his designs.

“The red carpet has gone from elitist to popular,” the Guardian quoted him as saying during his stint at Lanvin.

Elbaz told the same newspaper in 2009 that his own weight informed his design, creating work that allowed women to emphasise and de-emphasise what they wanted in their look.

“I am overweight, so I am very, very aware of what to show and what not to show,” he said, “and I am sure there is a huge link with being an overweight designer and the work I do.”

Accepting an award in 2015, he said, “What can I do for a woman to make her life better and easier? How can I make a woman more beautiful?’”

Suzy Menkes, an influential fashion writer, once said that Elbaz “is every woman’s darling,” although he also designed for men like Pharrell Williams and Harry Styles.

His ecumenism brought a relief even to the celebrities whose looks were setting the trends. Portman, like Elbaz an Israeli citizen, in 2007 called him her “ultimate fashion philosopher-mentor,” according to The New York Times obituary.

“He says things to me like ‘Wear flats. You’re short. It’s much cooler not to pretend,’” Portman told Time magazine at the time, which named him as one of that year’s 100 most influential people.

Elbaz’s departure from Lanvin was a shock and apparently related to internal politics at the legacy brand. He surprised the industry by waiting until this year to dive back in, launching his own line called AZ Factory.

His clients took to social media to remember a joyful man who never made them feel uncomfortable.

“My first time to Paris I was surprised with a lunch with Alber and I almost fainted when he walked in,” Kardashian said on Instagram. “He was the most warm and welcoming … Our fittings were filled with laughs and hugs! What a sweet soul.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: