Alber Elbaz’s Paris

The Moroccan-born fashion designer has been bringing a cool Parisian glamour to Lanvin since 2001. The Jeanne Lanvin retrospective at Paris’s Palais Galliera runs until August 23

Alber Elbaz at Palais Galliera, Paris
Alber Elbaz at Palais Galliera, Paris | Image: Léa Crespi

“Saturday morning at 8am, I work‑out with my trainer by the Seine for an hour. Much as I hate it, it’s the most beautiful time – quiet and empty – with just a few people running or biking. Afterwards we’ll stop at one of the little café booths that run along the river from the Musée d’Orsay to the Eiffel Tower. It’s an amazing start to the day.

For some time to myself – a real luxury – I’ll go to Café de Flore, one of my favourite places in Paris for a café crème. I’d like to have a croissant too, but resist. Then it’s off to either La Hune, Karl Lagerfeld’s 7L or Galignani – three bookshops where I can dream and relax.

At about four, after I’ve had a nap – my idea of a really perfect weekend – I’ll take myself to a movie theatre. A favourite is the Balzac; it’s privately owned and at weekends they have musicians playing for a few minutes before the film starts and the owner says why he’s chosen to show that particular movie. The last one I saw was Whiplash. Oh my god, it was incredible – first I thought it was about the drumming student, then the teacher, and finally I realised it was saying that it doesn’t just take talent but hard work and passion to be a success. After I saw the film, I invited 37 people from Lanvin to watch it too.

Afterwards, I love to have Chinese, Korean or Japanese food. For Chinese I’ll go to Chez Ly, around the corner. What I like most, besides the red velvet decor, is Mr Ly: he is so sensitive and ensures everything is made for me without oil or soy sauce, which is almost impossible. I’ll have huge soups with lots of fruits de mer and vegetables, or grilled chicken or fish. He brings everything with so much love that I taste the love more than the spices. For Japanese I adore Hanawa on Rue Bayard, just across from Chanel. They know me by name and take me upstairs to a corner table so I am totally isolated, and an Algerian waiter with a big smile brings me sushi or sashimi – when they ask what I’d like, I say, “Whatever you want.” All day long I make decisions, so sometimes I don’t like to make any more. For Korean I’ll go to Woo-Jung in the 16th arrondissement. My boyfriend is Korean, so when he gets homesick this is where we’ll go.

At home I’ll read a little – in Hebrew, because it’s the language I speak the best and I can read between the lines and get into the fantasy – and go to bed.

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Sunday morning I’ll stay at home and sketch, working on the next Lanvin collection. Later I might go to a contemporary dance matinée. I adore Pina Bausch – I’m so sorry I never met her – and always try and see her company whenever they perform. Ideally I’ll go to Théâtre de la Ville and sit in the front row; I want to see things close, to smell the sweat and see the wrinkles, teeth and eyes – I want to feel their expressions.

Or I’ll spend time at Palais Galliera. It’s a palace, not just a fashion museum – grand and yet intimate. I’ve been working with Olivier Saillard, the museum’s curator, on an exhibition on Jeanne Lanvin. What’s special is the way Olivier respects museum codes – dates, facts and so on – but lets people fall in love with the subject. I want our show to be a love letter from Jeanne Lanvin.

For something to eat, I’ll go to Les Deux Abeilles, run by a mother and daughter. Inside there is a little tree and every time I go, by some coincidence, the chair by the tree is empty and I sit there. They make the best cake in the world, as well as quiches, salads and couscous so refined that everything fills you, but nothing makes you feel heavy.

Sunday night is both an ending and a beginning. I always feel a bit down, but I’ve learnt not to fight it – to love it. Only when you feel down can you go up again.”

For another fashionista’s perspective on the City of Light, see Julie de Libran’s Paris.

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