French fashion house
Founded: in Paris in 1890 by Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946). Company History: Began with offering custom children's clothing; offered women's clothing, 1909, introduced first fragrances, 1925; men's clothing, women's sportswear, furs, and accessories, from 1926; upon Lanvin's death, daughter Marie-Blanche de Polignac took reins of company, 1946-58; launched women's ready-to-wear, 1982; Jeanne Lanvin S.A. purchased by Orcofi and L'Oreal, 1989; couture collections discontinued, 1992; introduced bath and body lines, Ligne Deliceuse, 1994; designers have included Antonio del Castillo (1950-62), Jules-François Crahay (1963-85), Maryll Lanvin (from 1982), Claude Montana (1990), Dominique Morlotti (from 1992), Ocimar Versolate (1996-98), Cristina Ortiz, (from 1998); sold by L'Oreal to Harmonie SA, 2001; fragrances include My Sin, 1925, Arpége, 1927 (reintroduced 1994), Scandal, 1931, Runeur, 1934, Pretexts, 1937, Crescendo, 1960, L'Homme, 1997, Oxygene, 2001. Exhibitions: Paris Couture—Années Trente, Musée de la Mode et du Costume, Palais Galliera, Paris. Collections: Victoria & Albert Museum, London; Fashion Institute of Technology, New York; Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Musée de la Mode et du Costume, Paris; Musée des Arts de la Mode, Paris. Awards: Jeanne Lanvin: Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur,
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The youthful look identified with Lanvin came from Jeanne Lanvin's earliest couture, children's dresses; the many decorations were inspired by a trip to Spain during her childhood. The memory of the play on shadows and light would influence her choice of embroidery, such as multineedle sewing machine stitching and quilting. She had three embroidery ateliers. Beading and appliqué were also applied. With dyes she ombréed textiles. She had her own dye works—Lanvin Blue, inspired by stained glass was developed there. These decorations were applied to all categories, including millinery, couture, menswear, and accessories.
Lanvin did not drape or sketch but gave verbal instructions to the sketchers. Approved drawings were sent to ateliers for execution. Although Art Déco-style embroideries continued well into the 1930s, ideas came from all periods of art. She found inspiration everywhere— from her painting collection containing Vuillard, Renoir, Fantin-Latour, and Odilon Redon—as well as from from books, fruit, gardens, museums, travel, and costume collections. She had her own costume archives dating from 1848 to 1925. Nothing was taken literally, but interpreted.
The chemise as women's dress was introduced in 1913. Her best known innovation, the robe de style, was an adaptation of the 18th-century pannier. Introduced in the 1920s, it was repeated in a variety of fabrics: silk taffeta, velvet, metallic lace with organdy, chiffon, and net. New models were presented for two decades. She showed tea gowns, dinner pajamas, dolman wraps, hooded capes, and Zouave bloomer skirts that were either youthful, classic, or romantic. Her clear colors were subtle and feminine: begonia, fuchsia, cerise, almond green, periwinkle blue, cornflower blue. Silver was combined with black or white. Adjusting to World War II, Lanvin created the split coat for bicycling and bright-colored felt gas mask cases. During the Liberation, she presented showings for American soldiers.
In 1927 Lanvin created a fragrance for her only child, Countess Marie-Blanche de Polignac, an opera singer. A heady mix of honeysuckle, jasmine, and patchouli, Arpége became a sensation, with fans including Rita Hayworth and Princess Diana. Relaunched in 1994, it continues to this day to be a bestselling classic.
Jeanne Lanvin died in 1946; her daughter continued the business after her death. Designer Antonio del Castillo, arriving in 1950, attempted to adapt to the house image. His Spanish background influenced his choice of brighter colors, light and heavy combinations of fabrics, and more severe, sophisticated styles. His successor, Jules-François Crahay, arriving in 1963, returned to the collections the youthful quality that remains today. Other major designers who have worked for Lanvin include Ocimar Versolato, Dominique Morlotti, Alberto Morillas, and most recently, Cristina Ortiz.
In 1989 Orcofi and L'Oreal, in a joint venture, together purchased Lanvin, one of the world's oldest fashion and fragrance houses. Over the years, L'Oreal—itself partially owned by Gesparal, which in turn was partly owned by Nestlé S.A.—slowly bought out Orcofi, and Lanvin became a part of the L'Oreal stable (until sold in 2001 to Harmonie SA), which includes such companies and brand names as Maybelline, Redken, Biotherm, Cacharel, Lancôme Paris, Le Club des Créatures de Beaut, and Vichy Labs.
In 2001 Lanvin introduced its 26th fragrance, called Oxygene, "the first," according to Christophe Toumit, general director of Lanvin Parfums, "since Arpége to come to America." So, more than half a century after her death, Jeanne Lanvin's legacy continues to grow.
updated by Daryl F. Mallett