Elbaz has been key to each of these decisions. “I don’t feel a responsibility just from an artistic point of view,” he says. “But to do a good collection also means that the people supporting my dream will have a good salary. It’s a huge responsibility to also make it happen for them. So every move we make is very calculated. We never jump too high or too fast, and we work very hard.”

FROM LEFT: Audrey Tautou; Diane Kruger; Natalie Portman; Rose Byrne

Thierry Andretta smiles when he hears this; the Lanvin CEO has stopped at the table for a moment, having just returned from purchasing vintage-inspired Mickey Mouse T-shirts from a nearby Uniqlo. Andretta won’t debate Elbaz’s modesty for one moment, and doesn’t hesitate when asked what’s at the heart of Lanvin’s success. “I think Alber succeeds simply because he loves women,” Andretta says. “In every ready-to-wear piece, every shoe or piece of jewelry, you feel that he loves women, he wants them to feel elegant, comfortable, a little sensual, not too sexy. You perceive it immediately.”

That such a talent comes without a hint of artifice or guile only makes Elbaz more of a rock star in the eyes of editors and consumers alike. He recalls recently asking his longtime partner, Alex Koo, who is also Lanvin’s director of marketing, whether Koo thought they were still cool. “He said, ‘Alber, we were never cool,’” Elbaz recalls. “So I asked, ‘What am I?’ and [Alex] said, ‘You’re relevant.’”

Elbaz quickly realized he was satisfied by such an answer. “To be cool also means to be cold to me,” he explains. “Being relevant today means you understand a woman’s lifestyle, that you have found a way to mix the fantasy and the reality together and make it work for her. Fashion design is not art, because art must be pure fantasy; in design you have to go with the rational and the emotional, and somehow in the middle, they mix. This is pure design.”

TOP LEFT: The finale of Lanvin's Fall/Winter 2010 showing. TOP RIGHT: Black python three-strap bootie from Lanvin’s Fall/Winter collection. All items pictured available at Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave.; lanvin.com

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