Lanvin is a fashion house almost everyone knows. The name rings a bell to even the most clueless when it comes to fashion; the H&M collection Lanvin designed in 2010 (with Alber Elbaz steering the wheel) definitely had something to do with the public awareness since then. However, Lanvin is one of the oldest fashion houses still in production today. Here is the beautiful story of the French Jeanne Lanvin.... how the clothes she made for her daughter became the essence of a beautiful fashion career.
|Jeanne by Edouard Vuillard in 1935|
Jeanne was born the very first day of 1867. She had ten younger siblings and her family lived in poverty. Jeanne started of working at a very young age because of that. When she was a teenager, she worked in a hat shop called ‘Madame Felix’ in Paris. After that, she started working for Cordeau (also a hatter) and got send to work in Barcelona. Jeanne didn’t settle there at all and she soon moved back to Paris. In 1885 she opened a little hat shop and just a few years later (1889) her first boutique on the Rue Boissy d'Anglais was a fact. She still primarily made hats from her own designs.
|Robe de style for mamma, and a matching dress for her daughter|
When Lanvin was 22, she married Emilio di Pietro. With whom he had one child, a daughter named Marguérite. The marriage didn’t last long unfortunately, they got divorced in 1903 after just seven years. In 1907, she remarried journalist Xavier Melet. Jeanne was very keen on designing clothes for her daughter, quickly leading to complete collections of children’s wear. The designs Marguérite wore were so incredibly beautiful and detailed, it soon started to draw the attention of wealthy people who wanted copies for their own children.
By the time the first decade of the 20th century ended, Lanvin designed a womens collection which extended her clientele even more. She was known for her mother-daughter designs and exquisite robes de style (small waisted, full skirted dresses ), as well as her modern and global approach to the fashion industry. In the same year (1909), Lanvin joined the Syndicat de la Couture, which marked her formal status as a couturier. Here inspiration was still, as it always had been, her daughter Marguérite (who later called by the name of Marie-Blanche de Polignac.)
Underlining someone’s personality was a priority in Lanvin’s designs. The incredible details and well-thought fit of the designs made them ever so popular. The twenties and thirties were the most glorious decades for Jeanne, in which she opened several different shops in addition to the fashion boutiques. Her enterprise now included shops in furs and lingerie. In corporation with designer Armand Albert Rateau, the first home decoration line was launched in 1925 called ‘Lanvin’s Decoration. In 1926, the first shop selling menswear was opened which made Lanvin the first couturier to design for whole families. Lanvin also started selling perfume, with the fragrance called “Arpège” as one of the most fermiliar names in all of perfumery. This perfume was named by Marguérite on her thirteenth birthday, already an accomplished musician, she called it after the musical term arpeggio.
Jeanne’s work was easily recognizable by her skilful use of embroidery, and her fine craftsmanship. She used a particular shade of blue so often, that it earned the name"Lanvin Blue". For Lanvin, women were meant to wear clothes of unabashed feminity, in colours that were pretty, and whose shapes had a "young girl" look. She set the mood with narrow empire-wasted dresses and long trailing sleeves. The fabrics that she used were silk, taffeta, velvet, silk chiffon, organza, lace, tulle, etc. She used a lot of free-flowing ribbons, ruffles, flowers, lace, mirrors, etc., and liked ornamentation like applique, couching, quilting, parallel stitching, and embroidery. Amoungst her famous clientele were names as Marlene Dietrich and Mary Pickford.
The war made production difficult fot he house of Lanvin (as it did for any fashion house), but Jeanne kept on producing fashion until her death in 1946. She led her fashion company for ver fifty years! Her daughter took over the company until she died only twelve years later. As I said before, the house of Lanvin is still going strong in the fashion industry and is now being led by designer Alber Elbaz.