My mother always says, “You can miss a happy occasion but never a sad one.”
Her reasoning is simple: when people are happy – like at a wedding – they don’t miss you.
But when they’re sad… lonely… grieving… show up and it means the world.
That’s why I came to Paris this week.
Not for the fashion shows… nor to see friends… but to remember one special friend, Alber Elbaz, who died from Covid-19 in April, just shy of his sixtieth birthday.
Alber was a giant in fashion. Best known as the creative director of Lanvin (2001-2015), where he turned a “sleeping beauty” into something magical.
He dressed the biggest stars. Natalie Portman.
… who – while presenting Alber an award in 2015 – said, “When I put on one of his dresses, I still feel like myself, or just a very good version of her.”
We all felt that way. And yet, that wasn’t what drew us to Alber.
It was his kindness. His generous spirit. His humility. His humor.
You see, Alber was a rare creature in the cutthroat world of fashion: he was beloved by all.
Which is why – on the final night of fashion week in Paris (and after a long month of shows in four cities) — the biggest names came together to honor him.
Not with a memorial service. But with – what else? – a history-making fashion show hosted by AZ Factory, the label he created just months before he died.
45 of some of the most well-known designers in the world each created an outfit in honor of Alber… inspired by his imaginative work and joyful spirit.
Alber’s family and close friends from Israel were in attendance.
France’s First Lady, Brigitte Macron, was there, too.
So was Alber’s friend, Demi Moore and her daughter, Scout, wearing the same red outfit she wore when she last saw him.
New York designer, Rosie Assoulin – who got her start as an intern in the Lanvin studio -- created an outfit that she believes “would have made him smile.”
Sure, there were tears, but mostly, it was a celebration of a life – albeit too short – well lived.
At a small gathering of close friends and family on Wednesday, Alber’s loving partner of 28 years, Alex Koo, said this:
The Alber we remember loved pizza and McDonald’s.
He loved going for dinner in Koreatown when he came to New York.
And enjoyed taking walks in the park arm in arm with friends.
At his core, a simple man who enjoyed simple pleasures.
I remember interviewing Alber for CNN a decade ago. I had just lost my dad and brought my mom along to the interview to cheer her up (she was a fan). As we walked in, Alber went straight to my mom, put a long pearl necklace around her neck, and said, “I have a weakness for moms.”
She never forgot it, and neither did I.
Alber will live on forever in our hearts.