FOUNDED IN 1889 BY JEANNE LANVIN, LANVIN REMAINS FRANCE’S OLDEST HAUTE COUTURE HOUSE STILL IN OPERATION. ALTHOUGH THE LABEL HAS KEPT UP WITH SOME OF THE LATEST TRENDS, IT NEVER FAILS TO POSSESS AN ELEGANT, DISTINCTIVE QUALITY THAT REMAINS TIMELESS THROUGHOUT THE AGES.
Fashion has always been a tenet of French culture, but it was Jeanne Lanvin who truly made luxury retail into a reality. Lanvin’s designs, originally created for her young, girly daughter, are known for their ability to make anyone feel like a princess. Even now, the brand embodies a sense of timelessness and elegance. Rather than succumbing to modern trends and boyish fits, the design team consistently produces gorgeous, feminine pieces, along with eye-catching accessories and undergarments to boot.
THE EARLY DAYS
Jeanne Lanvin was born into a family of 11 children, but even as a child, she had the sense that she was going to become something bigger. From a young age, she was working for a milliner, designing creative hats that stunned the rest of Paris. She soon opened a small workshop, making hats for the Parisian elite. She might have continued on this pathway if not for one life-changing moment: the birth of her daughter, Marie-Blanche de Polignac. Jeanne became enamored with designing pieces for her daughter, who was the apple of her eye, and Marie-Blanche soon became the envy of all the local schoolchildren. Lanvin was commissioned to design clothes for other girls, and later their mothers, too. As her business grew, she opened up her first official store, attracting the attention of shoppers nationwide.
The brand became famous at just the right time - the 1920s, a period of decadence and female liberation. As one of the most famous and influential fashion designers at the time, Jeanne Lanvin had the freedom to experiment with some of the most unique and brazen designs at the time, while maintaining an air of feminine mystique. Her use of romantic florals, lace trimmings, subtle cuts, and intricate beadings became a symbol of status around the world.
LANVIN AFTER JEANNE
After the founder of the house died in 1946, her daughter took over the company, managing the firm with her cousin. Since Marie-Blanche de Polignac never had a child, the House of Lanvin was passed onto another relative, Yves Lanvin, following her untimely death. During this time, the brand fell into a period of decline, becoming merely a ghost of fashion’s past. The company had been transferred into many different hands in the 1960s - none of which were particularly innovative.
In 1979, Lanvin ultimately bought out its own creative independence from Squibb USA and orchestrated a major revival through a promotional tour in both Paris and the United States. Thankfully, this marketing strategy proved to be a success, and a reinvigorated brand re-entered the world of fashion. In October 2001, Alber Elbaz, an Israeli fashion designer, was appointed the new artistic director. Elbaz brought back the traditional and classic air with an unprecedented attention to detail, and even introduced new packaging featuring a forget-me-not blue that was reportedly one of Jeanne Lanvin’s favorite colors after she saw it in a Fra Angelico fresco. Sensing the growing market for men in luxury goods, Lucas Ossendrijver designed the men’s collection, which debuted with great success and further modernized Lanvin’s appeal.
Although she didn’t know it at the time, Jeanne Lanvin truly created a universal, timeless company from the very moment she opened her first workshop. It’s hard to find a brand, past or present, that has consistently appealed to so many people, ranging from celebrities to Arsenal FC, a London-based football club that has named Lanvin its official tailor. Today, Lanvin is loved for its Duchesse satin gowns, black-tie frocks, embossed cigarette pants, and voluminous skirting, all of which embrace femininity and delicacy.With Alber Elbaz at the heart of Lanvin’s creative faction for 14 years, it’s easy to see why even the most discerning clients covet Lanvin. Its various opulent, yet refined, collections are known worldwide for their polished detail-focused aesthetic and graceful, queenly shapes.
Lanvin’s trademark style includes skillfully placed beaded decorations, delicate embroideries, and other intricate, often hidden details that are known for being difficult to imitate by even the most talented seamstresses. Lanvin designs often feature light, floral colors that evoke a sense of youthful spring awakening and brightness.
Though originally only available in Parisian boutiques, Lanvin products are now carried in various luxury stores, such as Neiman Marcus in the United States and Harrod’s in England. In addition, Lanvin can be found on websites such as NET-A-PORTER and Luisa via Roma.
1889 -1946 Jeanne Lanvin
1946–1958 Marie-Blanche de Polignac
1950–1963 Antonio del Castillo
1960–1980 Bernard Devaux
1964–1984 Jules-François Crahay (Haute-Couture)
1981–1989 Maryll Lanvin
1989–1990 Robert Nelissen
1990–1992 Claude Montana (Haute-Couture)
1990–1992 Eric Bergère
1992–2001 Dominique Morlotti
1996–1998 Ocimar Versolato
1998–2001 Cristina Ortiz
2001–2015 Alber Elbaz
Jeanne Lanvin starts out by setting up a milliner’s boutique on the corner of Rue Boissy d’Anglas. At the same time, she begins designing playful dresses for her daughter, Marie-Blanche de Polignac, attracting the attention of wealthy patrons in Paris. Some of the most fashionable women in Europe become her clientele, and are frequently spotted in Lanvin’s new boutique on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris.
The brand is invited to join the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, a dressmaker’s union, and her acceptance marks her formal introduction to the world of luxury design. In other parts of the country, department stores start opening sections specifically for young ladies and women, becoming the perfect place for Lanvin to display her goods.
Lanvin introduces a number of lines in addition to her clothing designs, including home décor, menswear, furs and lingerie. The creation of Lanvin’s signature perfume, Arpege, also signals a turn for the company. The house also expands significantly in this time, hiring over 1,200 employees and owning over three buildings in Paris.
The brand acquires a dye factory in Nanterre, significantly expanding its production capabilities. Here, the famous blue shade was created, the idea rising from a Fra Angelico painting that Jeanne Lanvin herself loved.
Lanvin starts her own lingerie line, Lanvin Tailleur and Lanvin Chemisier, and opens up a new store at 15 Rue du Faubourg St. Honore.
A fruitful association with the theater arts begins. Among those who start wearing her creations are Blanche Montel, a famous French actress, as well as the Dolly Sisters, two Hungarian-American actresses adored by the public. Impressed with Lanvin’s efforts, filmmaker Sacha Guitry awards Lanvin with the honorary title “Ambassador of Elegance,” further shining the spotlight on Lanvin. Even now, A-list actresses like Meryl Streep are frequently spotted wearing custom-made Lanvin gowns.
The official logo becomes a small gold engraving of Jeanne Lanvin and her daughter, dressed to attend a ball. The emblem embraces everything the house stands for: grandeur, magnificence, and womanhood.
The “Madame” Jeanne Lanvin dies in 1946, ushering in a new era of fashion at Lanvin. The company is headed by her daugher and original inspiration, Marie-Blanche de Polignac, until 1958. De Polignac makes significant changes to the company, including hiring Antonio Canova del Castillo to design the “Houses” collection.
After fading away from public eye for a while, the house makes a comeback after becoming a private company once again. Designer Jules-François Crahay wins three Golden Thimble awards for his “Houses” collections in 1977, 1981, and 1984. Likewise, in 1990 and 1992, Claude Montana wins two Golden Thimble awards for his contributions.
L’Oreal acquires the brand in 1996 and changes the company’s line-up of designers, hiring Alber Elbaz as the Creative Director in 2001. Later that year, Lanvin is sold to the Chinese businesswoman Shaw Lan Wang.
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