Emily Holt of Vogue Magazine was one of the lucky few from the media invited to tour the personal offices of house founder Jeanne Lanvin. We reprint her experience here including the 5 things she learned and shared with her readers about the Lanvin universe. Be prepared to drool by the time you get to the photos below!
On the occasion of its 125th anniversary, Lanvin is opening the private office of its founder, Jeanne Lanvin, who steered the house for nearly half its existence. (The last time it was viewed was in 2011 during the charmingly named European Heritage Days weekend, and even then only 100 visitors were allowed the privilege.) It’s a modest, elegant room on the fourth floor of Lanvin headquarters at the corner of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and Rue Boissy d’Anglas, next to Hermès, which was the only other fashion store on the street when Mme. Lanvin launched her millinery business in 1889. Yes, Lanvin started with hats. And here are five other things we learned, with the help of house historian Laure Harivel, as we toured Jeanne Lanvin’s private office.
1. Red-carpet dressing is not a new phenomenon . . .
Current Lanvin creative director Alber Elbaz has already had a stellar award season (Sandra Bullock, Maggie Gyllenhaal, among others), carrying on what appears to be a tradition: Mme. Lanvin steadily dressed theater and film actresses onstage and off. Jane Renouardt, a screen siren at the turn of the twentieth century, was a frequent client and, in one instance, a dress Mme. Lanvin made for her was later replicated for a decorative arts exhibition. There are also several paintings in Lanvin’s handcrafted lookbooks for actresses who needed a wardrobe for the then-equivalent of a press junket, touring locales like South America.
2. Nor is pre-fall.
Although designers, editors, and everyone in fashion bemoan the industry’s relentless pace, Mme. Lanvin was imagining four collections a year back in the twenties, but each of those collections included more than 200 looks. Not only were samples produced, but they also existed as paintings done by artists based on Mme. Lanvin’s direction. It’s a massive body of work, and these lookbooks, also would be sent to private clients who didn’t live in France, Italy, or Spain where Lanvin had stores.
3. The significance of the Lanvin logo and signature blue hue.
That not-quite-sky, not-quite-cornflower shade of blue that marks Lanvin bags, awnings, and packaging was first spotted by Mme. Lanvin in a Fra Angelico fresco in Florence, Italy. As for the black logo, it was drawn by Paul Iribe, a collaborator of Mme. Lanvin’s, and mimics a photograph taken of the designer and her beloved daughter, Marguerite, at a costume ball in 1907. Mme. Lanvin made these dolls, also after the photo, for the store windows.
4. Her fittings were the epitome of refined.
During fittings held in Mme. Lanvin’s private office, a model would stand in front of a giant three-way-mirror on a curved track, so that the designer could perch on a chair (one of the many she designed in collaboration with Armand-Albert Rateau) while a staff member moved the mirror along the rail, allowing Lanvin to sit back and see the look from all angles.
5. She did windows. Sort of.
Mme. Lanvin not only designed women’s, men’s, and children’s clothes, she also, with Rateau, made furniture. (Where she found the energy, we’ll never know.) Lanvin Décoration sat across the street from the Lanvin fashion store, and in addition to selling ready-made furnishings—such as the chairs Mme. Lanvin and Rateau created that provided the inspiration for those in Lanvin stores worldwide—also served as a space to meet with private clients such as the Théâtre Daunou. There, near the national opera house, you can witness firsthand Mme. Lanvin’s obsession with blue in the drapes, walls, and chairs which complement the gilded, daisy-inspired ceiling.
Article by Emily Holt/Vogue. Photos below by Molly SJ Lowe.