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Ever since the news of Alber Elbaz’s death broke last weekend, the fashion world has been in a collective state of mourning. Many have eulogised and memorialised the designer’s unique ability to make women feel empowered in the clothes designed. But few knew him better than Shelly Verthime, his close friend and collaborator, who first met him as his teacher at the Shenkar College of Engineering and Design in Israel.
This week on The BoF Podcast, editor-in-chief Imran Amed and editor-at-large Tim Blanks speak with Verthime and reflect on Elbaz’s influence, recounting the highs and lows of his career defining moments.
From the beginning of his career, Verthime said Elbaz created a clear path for the steps he wished to take with the industry. “I knew that there was just something so special about him, it was so clear to me where he is going,” she said. “At the time I was his teacher but very, very soon he became my teacher, and then he became [the industry’s] teacher and mentor and friend.”
Throughout his career, Elbaz exercised the power of communication as well as creativity. Elbaz was an “original creator, emotional creator but he was a fantastic communicator,” Verthime said. “He knew what works and what doesn’t work for him.”
Elbaz was known for his efforts to empower women, dressing them suit to their needs and build their confidence. His close relationship to his mother facilitated his understanding of women as multifaceted. “What he wanted to do was that his clothes would enhance the personality, where you see the face… it was about the woman who would wear it,” said Verthime. “He wanted assertive women [and] he wanted women to love themselves.”