With AZ Factory, Alber Elbaz wanted to become the little brand that could, offering young designers a top-flight atelier that would make their dreams come true. “He wanted to invite them to think about the ritual of couture in a way that speaks to their generation,” said Mauro Grimaldi, who oversees the brand’s development. “Our job is to expose them to the fashion world so they can actively decide on their future.”
That future came into focus in record time for Finnish designer Jenny Hytönen, 26, who scooped the top prize at Hyères less than 18 months ago. “I’m kind of still processing this,” she admitted as models filed into a raw loft space in the Upper Marais, where they were photo-scanned and their images projected on the concrete walls. “Until now I’ve only ever worked by myself. It’s amazing but also kind of overwhelming.” Her mother Suvi Aspholm, a chemistry professor, said she was feeling much the same way. “As a child, whether she was drawing or making a cake, Jenny was really focused on doing things her way,” she said, recounting how during Covid her daughter methodically turned out the crystal-laden collection that landed her squarely on fashion’s radar.
With this outing, Hytönen decided indulge in a favorite pastime—thrifting—scoring men’s leather military jackets and shearling coats in charity shops all over Paris, then repurposing them into the “scrapbook” coats shown here (one jacket was made using six finds, she noted). In counterpoint, her flou pieces married transparency and texture, for example in a gathered dress in peach chiffon with gold studs and a metal rod at the collarbone. Another was informed by Elbaz’s tenure at Lanvin, as well as by the electronics in her own Nintendo DS game and by the ideology of steampunk.
Hytönen said that she had been looking more closely at femininity of late. “I think Alber was very good at making women feel sexy and powerful but in a way that was never degrading,” she said. “You could see his respect for women in his work.” The “hardware embroidery” and harness jewelry were her tribute to the soft post-punk movement. She also has been mulling what the future should look like. “When people think about the future, I think the picture is very bland and minimalist,” she said. “To me, the future is more about layering [things together] and showing the past in a way that windows can open.”