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Israeli Designer Rises in Paris Fashion World

June 22, 1998
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An Israeli fashion designer, whose creations first hit the Paris catwalk last year, has just snagged one of the most-desired jobs in the industry — producing Yves Saint Laurent’s ready-to-wear clothes.

Alber Elbaz, 37, who cut his teeth as U.S. designer Geoffrey Beene’s right hand for seven years, will unveil his first collection for the house of Saint Laurent in March of next year.

The news came as a shock to the Paris fashion world, where the reclusive, 61- year-old Saint Laurent enjoys the status of nothing less than a god. After 36 years at the helm of one of the most famous fashion labels of all time, Saint Laurent’s withdrawal from the label’s mass-produced, off-the-race ready-to-wear — he will continue designing the haute couture — could mean an early retirement.

But perhaps more surprising was the choice of Elbaz, who was virtually unknown until the staid house of Guy Laroche snatched him out of obscurity and made him one of Paris’ new rising stars.

Although the Moroccan-born designer, who is short, round and agreeably humble, is far from all that fashion is about these days — flash, theatricality and decadence — his flair for taking the basics and giving them quirky and whimsical touches could be just the right thing for Saint Laurent: dusting off the classic label without scaring off the house’s clientele.

Elbaz, who is also an American citizen, has refused any interviews until he leaves Guy Laroche after his final collection there is presented in October of this year.

But when a reporter accidentally ran into him at a Paris airport where he was about to board a plane for New York the day after the news was announced, he merely said: “I got a thousand calls yesterday. Of course I’m nervous but I don’t want to talk about it.”

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