Once a gentleman reaches the age of 80 you would think his chance of becoming a fashion icon was long gone, not so for the dapper and ever sartorially elegant Babar the elephant, who is now gracing a new menswear collection thanks to his lifelong fan the designer Silas Adler. It is the 80th anniversary this year of when his books were first public, and Adler chose having him to spearhead his new collection as the ultimate tribute to an elephant instantly recognised for his style.
Adler works for Soulland, a label based in Copenhagen and is proud that Babar’s first association with fashion is for his own collection. Speaking at the collection launch at the Colette store in Paris, he said that he loved Babar as a kid and he was his favourite character but as he got older he forgot about him somewhat, like you do. He added that 2 years ago he read an article about Babar’s creator Jean de Brunhoff and instantly thought that with him being an elegant gentleman he would be perfect for a menswear collection.
The story of Babar the elephant came from humble beginnings, in the form of bedtime stories that Cecile, the wife of de Brunhoff, told to their 2 sons. Within a year the first book was published in 1933, but fame was short lived as de Brunhoff died in 1937 from tuberculosis at only 37 years of age. Laurent, his son, who is 86 now and living in New York, carried on the books in the style of his father and produced another 35 books.
Babar provokes feelings of both fervour and nostalgia, especially in Japan where there are a dozen Babar stores dedicated to all things elephant. In the UK however he has experienced a lull, and pre-schoolers these days are much more likely to recognise Hello Kitty and Peppa Pig rather the permanently green suite elephant. Whilst an attempt at a revival has been made with an animated TV series fans of the original books are scathing when it comes to modern, garish animation.