“I am a designer, not an Instagram celebrity, or a social influencer,” says Alber Elbaz, “so I approached the project as a designer.”
The Israeli fashion designer was talking about his current collaboration with Tod’s, a capsule collection that he describes as an attempt in reinterpreting the leather goods specialist’s DNA. Called Tod’s Happy Moments, the limited line has the Italian house’s popular driving shoe as the focal point. “Driverless cars will be the future and I wanted to create new shoes for everyone for everyday ‘driving,’” he explains.
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During conceptualization, Elbaz’s gut feel was simply to work with what makes people happy—in different moments of their lives, or even different times of the day. “I wanted to capture a few happy moments, like happy to be in love, a big happy family, for instance,” he says. “My starting point was how to transform, but keep the soul of Tod’s iconic driving shoes for today.”
Born in Casablanca to a Moroccan-Jewish family, Elbaz moved to Israel when he was 10 and spent his childhood south of Tel Aviv, in the coastal strip city of Holon. After studying at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, and a mandatory period with the Israeli Defense Forces, he found his way to New York to work as head designer for Geoffrey Beene. Since then, he’s had stints in Krizia in Milan, and Guy Laroche and Yves Saint Laurent both in Paris. His longest run was at Lanvin, where he worked as creative director for 14 years. His stay there ended on a sour note as he was let go from his position after disagreements with one of the brand’s shareholders, Shaw-Lan Wang.
Apart from his work within fashion houses, Elbaz also worked as costume designer for the Natalie Portman-helmed A Tale of Love and Darkness. He illustrated Mika’s 2009 song “Lady Jane,” and was the subject of a 2012 Rizzoli book.
The 58-year-old tried to make the driving shoes aerodynamic, bright, and unstructured, mounting them on sneaker soles, brandishing logos in obvious places, and adding elements such as neoprene. He says that he enjoyed the partnership, saying that it was “a relevant exercise dialogue between design, craftsmanship, commerce, and to think about how to build a strong bridge to connect the past and the future.”
Elbaz shares more in this ANCX exclusive talk:
How did the collaboration with Tod’s happen?
I was introduced to [Tod’s chairman] Diego Della Valle a few years ago by our dear friends, Franca Sozzani, whom I adored, and Anna Wintour, whom I adore just as well. They both thought we should meet each other and we did. We’ve kept in touch over the years and had many dinners together in Paris as we both love food and fashion. It was during one of these dinners that Diego invited me to work on a capsule collection for Tod’s, and I said I do.
What convinced you?
It was all Diego. He knows what he wants! One day, Diego invited me to his hype‐modern, really impressive factory in Le Marche to show me around to see what they were working on and to meet the workers. Behind the concrete walls, I met a group of passionate and dedicated individuals, true artisans, who bring new projects to life. I met the family of Tod’s but, in reality, I met Diego’s “family.” I appreciated and respected Diego’s vision. It was there that I knew I wanted to collaborate on a special project with him.
Why “Happy Moments?”
We all need a bit of happiness in our lives. Today more than ever. But can we be happy all the time? I’m afraid happiness doesn’t always come in big packages but sometimes in small drips‐and‐drops. When Happy Moments do come, no matter how small they are, we need to embrace them, cherish them and remember them. That’s a happy moment for me.
Do you have a specific customer in mind for this collection?
I’m not a marketing person. When it comes to customers, I am completely transparent and democratic. I love all people of all background, age and body shapes. That was one of the reasons I was attracted to Tod’s collaboration: to be able to “dress” everyone in Tod’s shoes.
Your visit to the factory seems very important in the narrative of this collection. How so?
All the magic happens at the factories. Without the talent and the dedication of these artisans, this capsule collection would have not been possible. At the end of the day, it is always about people and the simplicity of people willing to pour their heart and hard work to achieve the best result. I found them all at the Tod’s factory.
What makes Tod’s so perfectly Italian?
Italians do not give up on new challenges. Diego was completely open to everything, and so were the Tod’s artisans at the factory. They always said ‘Come no?’ which means ‘Why not?’ even if the idea was a bit crazy. When I proposed doing neoprene for the loafers, for instance, they didn’t hesitate to give it a try even though Tod’s never used neoprene for shoes! As a designer, ‘Come no?’ is a music to my ears! We have to experiment with new ideas to go forward.
There are no sneakers in the collection. Is that deliberate?
The market is flooded with sneakers and adding another pair in this capsule didn’t seem so important. More relevant for me was to add the rapidity, the aerodynamic design of the sneakers that we all love to Tod’s DNA, creating a hybrid of new comfortable shoes.
And there are a lot of logos instead.
“The logo is reassuring, even more so in our confused times where there are thousands of new products from every design and price points in the market. Logo should represent the best of the design and craftsmanship. I added my own whimsical touches to Tod’s iconic logo.”
The video for the launch was filmed in Roma. Why?
“How can you resist the beauty of the eternal city where Fellini filmed many of his movies? We wanted to imagine the Italian spirit and Roma is the perfect place to capture happy moments on camera.”
What happy moment would you like to get from this collection?
“Many hours of working with Diego and the Tod’s family creating not only great shoes but also creating a beautiful story about people. It’s not just about the products but a story that moves people, a story that makes people happy.”
Tod’s Happy Moments by Alber Elbaz was unveiled in Paris last month. It’s located at Greenbelt 4, Ayala Center, Makati. For more information, visit SSILife.com.ph.