October 3, 2016 / 6:31 PM / a year ago

Ex-Lanvin designer Elbaz turned nose for Frederic Malle

PARIS (Reuters) - Star designer Alber Elbaz, whose abrupt exit from Lanvin a year ago shocked the fashion world, is back in action, this time dressing women with perfume.

Fashion designer Alber Elbaz attends a ceremony to be awarded with the Officier de la Legion d'Honneur (Officer of the Legion of Honour) medal during a ceremony at the Culture Ministry in Paris, France, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Elbaz, for 14 years at the creative helm of Lanvin, France’s oldest fashion brand, on Monday announced he had created a perfume called Superstitious for the French perfume house Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle.

Frederic Malle is a niche perfume brand, part of U.S. cosmetics giant Estee Lauder since 2014. Elbaz worked with perfume creator or “nose” Dominique Ropion, who is behind Frederic Malle’s best-selling scents.

French perfumer Frederic Malle, who lives in New York, is the only perfume company director who markets scents as the work of a “nose” as would a publisher for its writers.

Niche perfumes are enjoying bigger sales growth than big brands, analysts say, as consumers increasingly tire of those backed by celebrities which they find resemble one another.

The fragrance created with Elbaz marks the second time Frederic Malle has worked with a designer, having collaborated with Belgium’s Dries van Noten in 2013.

Fashion designer Alber Elbaz (R), awarded with the Officier de la Legion d'Honneur (Officer of the Legion of Honour) medal, poses with actress Kristin Scott Thomas during a ceremony at the Culture Ministry in Paris, France, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Elbaz made the announcement after receiving the Legion of Honour, one of France’s most prestigious accolades, from Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay at the ministry’s salons, in a ceremony attended by more than 100 people, among them many familiar faces from Lanvin, including former chief executives Thierry Andretta, now head of Mulberry, and Paul Deneve, now at Apple.

The atmosphere was that of an alumni gathering with many stylists, fashion editors and buyers who had not seen Elbaz since his departure from Lanvin in October last year.

French Culture minister Audrey Azoulay (L) awards fashion designer Alber Elbaz with the Officier de la Legion d'Honneur (Officer of the Legion of Honour) medal during a ceremony at the Culture Ministry in Paris, France, October 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen

Elbaz was sacked after a spat with the brand’s controlling shareholder Taiwanese media magnate Shaw-Lan Wang. Partly stoking tensions was the fact that Wang did not want to make the investments Elbaz thought were necessary to help the brand grow, sources had told Reuters.

Wang had rejected several offers for Lanvin, obtained by Elbaz, including one from Valentino’s Qatari owners Mayhoola, the sources had said.

Dozens of Lanvin’s staff rebelled against Wang after the designer left and the spat triggered several legal proceedings, some of which are ongoing.

Elbaz, the bespectacled designer who never wears socks, put some on for the occasion. He said before his perfume was distributed to guests: “I invited you today to a show with no dresses. Instead, you will go out with a perfume of a dress.”

Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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