This season’s guest Amigos at AZ Factory are the London Colville designers Lucinda Chambers and Molly Molloy. Something about their flair for creative draping, and their instincts for how women feel about clothes meant their collaboration with the business proposition that the late, extremely missed, Alber Elbaz set up with the Richemont Group felt like a good fit. “We thought it an amazing honor to be asked,” said Chambers. “We both remember Alber so well. Just to work with his team so symbiotically was an incredible experience.”
Guests took elevators to the top of the Richemont-owned Fondation Cartier, where the models walked around a top-floor room with panoramic views of Paris. There we watched Colville’s grown-up, quirkily appealing style—their way with layering, wrapping and prints—integrated with some of the signature techniques Elbaz practiced throughout his career. The first few looks exemplified Elbaz’s way of interpreting raw-edged frills, gathered vertically center-front in a dark olive jersey tunic, and a skirt and T-shirt in a petrol blue.
The Colville knack, recognizable from the presentations they usually put on during Milan Fashion Week, brings together a wardrobe of mixed-media sporty things, retro-prints, flowy asymmetric dresses and crafty accessories. Put together in layerings of slim dresses over pants, wiggle-patterns and dots translated over flowy pleats and jacquard coats it captured the personal, arty style that Colville exemplifies.
It was after the show that more could be understood about how this project works—a one-season ‘guest-appearance’ template that other brands are increasingly copying across fashion. Since Elbaz’s untimely death, AZ’s Amigos have all been independents; the kind of designers and characters he appreciated. Thebe Magugu, Ester Manas and Lutz Huelle have preceded Colville. The collections are produced in house, with a team headed by a core of three designers who’ve been there since Elbaz hand-picked them for AZ Factory.
“They brought all their Alber spirit,” said Molloy. “We felt his presence, and used some of their deadstock. We had such fun doing it.” You could certainly feel why—this conversation was going on in the working studio a few levels down, surrounded by sewing machines and a joyful cacophony of photographs of Elbaz hamming it up with friends, and his handwritten aphorisms.
Chambers and Molloy talked about how the collection included a patchwork quilt of a dress which turns out to have been made “of shell suits from the ’90s, which we’ve been doing for a while at Colville,” and how the AZ team happily worked with “our craft weavers in Colombia” to make straw shopping baskets and small bags. Elbaz was a friendly, inclusive man who also had a great radar for authentic design talent. The sadness of his loss hasn’t abated, but the AZ thing he started is a way to play forward his positive influence over others.