Jeanne Lanvin (Credit: 125ans.lanvin.com)
Last October, reports surfaced that Lanvin parted with their famed Creative Director of 14 years, Alber Elbaz. It became clear that the split was not mutual. Vanessa Friedman tweeted that majority shareholder Lan Wang removed Elbaz and the split was not amicable, as the press releases would suggest. A fact Elbaz confirmed in his own statement.
Plagued by a poorly reviewed current collection, the oldest Parisian couture house has since appointed Bouchra Jarrar as their new creative director. As Racked points out Jarrar is only the fourth female designer in Lanvin’s history, in spite of the house’s founder being a woman and an extraordinary one at that. Jeanne Lanvin, as Vogue wrote in 1927, was “one of the greatest women of the world.” With such a small representation of female designers in spite of their brand being built on mother and daughter dressing, I was prompted to take a look back at the women of Lanvin past and what they might tell us of the house’s future.
Jeanne Lanvin with Laure Albin Guillot (© Laure Albin Guillot/Roger Viollet)
Jeanne Lanvin’s point of inspiration was born and developed organically. She didn’t set out to design for the elite but for her own daughter. When other women saw the beautiful dresses Lanvin made for her little one they requested garments for their daughters and soon after themselves. The Lanvin atelier formally became a house of couture under Jeanne in 1909. Vogue dubber her “the fairy godmother of the ‘jeune fille.’" Dressing mothers and their daughters, her approach to youthful dressing is what helped her to claim her place as one of fashion’s greats, but it is also the point of view that the house has struggled to retain in the decades following.
Marie-Blanche de Polignac (credit unknown)
Marie-Blanche de Polignac (Director General and Designer, 1946–1958)
When Jeanne Lanvin passed away in 1946, her daughter Marie-Blanche took over. While de Polignac was a pianist and cultured artist who learned many things from her accomplished mother, the house needed a stronger designer to revive and carry it into a new age and in 1950 de Polignac brought on Antonio Canovas del Castillo to design the Haute Couture. De Polignac continued to work behind the scenes to carry on the Lanvin legacy until her death in 1958.
Madame Maryll Lanvin, November 1980. For the book 'Lichfield - The Most Beautiful Women'. (Photo by Lichfield/Getty Images)
Maryll Lanvin (RTW, haute couture in 1985 & women's Boutique collections, 1981–1989)
Maryll Lanvin was a model who married Bernard Lanvin, the son of Yves Lanvin and heir to the house. After the marriage, the socialite couldn’t wear anything but Lanvin and was trained to take over as a designer of ready to wear in the early ‘80s and haute couture in 1985. This People article from May 17 1982 provides a fascinating look at the models foray in to designing for the storied brand for her short term at its helm.
Cristina Ortiz (credit unknown)
Cristina Ortiz (Women's ready-to-wear collections, 1998-2002)
Just as we were just exiting the ‘90s and welcoming the new millennium, the Brazilian born designer, Cristina Ortiz, brought some experimental edge to the Lanvin runway. Perhaps a play for the youth cult, but there is something to be said for her modern approach. Ortiz is the most recent female designer at Lanvin prior to Jarrar’s appointment and brought a tough edgy feel during her years heading the atelier.