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Lanvin: Prints in Power

Posted by Laura
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As the designer for Lanvin from 1964 to 1984, Belgian-born Jules-Francois Crahay was noted as one of fashion’s great colorists with his colorful patterns making his 1970s Lanvin designs hugel​y ​desirable and influential. Crahay designed his own fabrics and unlike many other couturiers was a skilled cutter and sewer. His mother ran a couture house in Liege that catered to Belgian ​s​ociety​, where he started working as a sketcher at age 13. There Crahay learned many of the skills of the trade, before studying art and fashion in Paris in the early 1930s. An unsuccessful attempt to open his own couture house in Paris in 1951 brought him to the attention of Nina Ricci, who hired him to design for her house. Crahay became chief designer there in 1959 and was praised for his feminine, youthful designs. Taking over at Lanvin in 1964, he immediately set to work rejuvenating the then-rather conservative house. 

His spring/summer 1970 couture collection at Lanvin was one of the hits of the fashion season, featuring what he described as a “poor girl look” (tight black turtleneck with a voluminous horizontally paneled gy​psy skirt, babushka scarves knotted under the chin) while his following collection was an ode to Tyrolian folk dress. For summer 1971 he had prints designed by the Scottish artist Eduardo Paolozzi, based on colorful computer prints Crahay had first seen at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; they were shown alongside gold sari silks specially woven for Lanvin in India. He also designed a Lanvin ready-to-wear collection that was manufactured in the US by The Arkin Collections, starting in 1970; these designs​​ ​featured his signature clear vibrant colors and definitive patterns on cottons and challis. Among the designs for summer 1971 was a navy and gold double-skirted dress with a removable bottom, sashed with a red vinyl bow, as well as print hot pants. Crahay retired in 1984; four years later he passed away from a heart attack.​ ​Remembered now primarily for his evening gowns, striking patterns and folkloric bent, Crahay’s passion for vivid colors and sumptuous fabrics can be seen throughout his oeuvre.

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Ad for the Paolozzi prints, manufactured by Ducharne, 1971.

“What is decadent about our time is that a profession, a training doesn’t count anymore. People expect princesses to be dressmakers, singers to be actors—things are no longer done by people who have been trained to do them. With clothes, if something isn’t well made, what does it matter? Everything is getting faster and faster. As for myself, I am happy when I am creating and then I am unhappy because I see something one way and when it is finished, I want it better. But that is life.”

 

 

Photo by Neal Barr for Harper's Bazaar,  October 1970.​

“I don’t like the word ‘romantic,’ but I guess it is the best word to describe the longer things.”

 

 

 Photo by Neal Barr for Harper's Bazaar,  April 1971.

“I believe the big difference between Paris and New York is that New York is very enthusiastic…simpatique.”

 

 

Photo by Richard Avedon for Vogue, March 15, 1970.

“I need the colors of sunshine…of flowers from a garden. For me life is full of color. It is a lifetime project and the fabrics are very important.”

 

 

Photo by Roland Bianchini for L'Officiel, 1972.​

“I have no use in afternoon clothes. Fashion leaps from the little morning suit to ​t​he evening gown.”

 

 

Photo by Neal Barr for Harper's Bazaar,  April 1971.

“It’s so difficult to do a couture collection these days. On one of the fabrics I ordered, I got a note saying it would be delivered July 24. Our collection is July 28. As for jewels to show with the collection, there won’​t​ be any because they aren’t ready.”

 

 

Photo by Guy Bourdin for Harper's Bazaar, March 1970.​

“Comfortable and uncomplicated… Fabrics are what separate the couture from the ready-to-wear, and when you’ve got expensive fabrics you can afford simplicity.”

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