lanvin's designs - Le Bal des Débutantes

How couturier Jeanne Lanvin
helped establish Paris as
the world’s fashion capital
Paula Hardy
here is no city that
takes fashion more
seriously than
Paris. It is the home
of haute couture
and the city of the Sun King,
Louis XIV, whose dazzling court
catapulted French fashion into the
global spotlight and gave birth to
the luxury goods business.
In July, when the sun gives the
Champs Elysées a warm honeyed
glow, new fashion fantasies are
born at Paris’s exclusive haute
couture shows. These shows
with their magical creations
demonstrate the very frontiers of
craftsmanship, where the talent of
the métiers d’art (master artisans)
are put to the ultimate test in
translating a designer’s vision of
beauty into a wearable garment.
Like Paris itself, haute couture
is about dreams and romance,
but many debate its relevance
in the modern world. One man
who would dispute this is Olivier
Saillard, director of the Palais
Galliera, the city’s renowned
museum of fashion currently
holding a retrospective of couturier
Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946), to
23 August.
Before Coco Chanel, Lanvin
was the force in fashion, having
launched her couture house – the
oldest in Paris – in 1889. She
blazed a trail as an entrepreneur,
creating the world’s first luxury
lifestyle brand as she moved
from designing hats to children’s
clothes, women’s wear, lingerie
and interior décor. She opened
shops in Biarritz, Barcelona and
Buenos Aires, and invented the
idea of four fashion seasons. In
1927, on her daughter Marguerite’s
30th birthday, she celebrated by
launching the legendary perfume
Arpège with its famous motherand-daughter logo that became the
visual identity of the brand.
The scope of her vision is
striking in its modernity. She was
the first designer to give holistic
thought to modern lifestyles. j
The Lanvin
exhibition with
vintage photos of
the great designer
Palais Galliera,
hosting the
Lanvin exhibition
1930s La Diva
design by Lanvin
Bespoke handbag
designer Kasia
Dietz leads private
fashion tours
The Debutante Ball
held at the luxury
Hotel de Crillon is
a showcase for top
fashion designers
Gehry’s new
Louis Vuitton
and set within an old engraver’s
workshop in the Passage des
Panoramas. Further east, the
cool Marais district has emerging
designers and vintage specialists
such as Violette et Léonie,
Valentine Gauthier and French
Trotters. Private fashion tours led
by handbag designer Kasia Dietz
open the door to many more.
Also getting a thoroughly
Parisian makeover is the
historic Forum des Halles. Only
Paris could rejuvenate an old
wholesale food market in such
style. Meadow-like gardens now
surround a giant golden-hued
glass canopy, which will enclose
a glittering line-up of gourmet
restaurants and 130 globalbrand boutiques. The crossover
between fashion, food, art and
architecture would have seemed
natural to Lanvin who presciently
understood that good design
affects every aspect of our lives.
She would also, no doubt have
approved of the spectacular new
Fondation Louis Vuitton, a new
contemporary art museum and
cultural centre commissioned
by another esteemed Parisian
fashion house, and set in the
Bois de Boulogne. Built by
Canadian architect Frank Gehry
its shimmering, glass-panelled
exterior is both visually surprising
and technologically smart, just
like Lanvin’s designs. Its aim is to
reinforce the connection between
Louis Vuitton and cutting edge
art and design. More than that,
it reminds us that creativity has
always existed at the crossroads
between art and consumerism.
The way we see ourselves, our
bodies and our cities shapes
fashion for every season, just as
fashion shapes us.
Photos: (previous page) La Diva design © Patrimoine Lanvin; Jeanne Lanvin with Laure Albin Guillot © Laure Albin Guillot/Roger-Viollet; Palais Galliera © Paris Tourist Office, photographer Daniel Thierry;
(this page) Kasia Dietz © Chloe Lodge; Debutante Ball © Le Bal/Renault/Payal New York (jewellery)/Hotel de Crillon; Frank Gehry Fondation Louis Vuitton © 2014 Todd Eberle
Lanvin understood
that good design
affects our lives
Despite the bows, ribbons and
pearls that ripple through her silk
georgette dresses, her clothes are
effortlessly modern and wearable,
their apparent simplicity hiding a
cleverness of cut and meticulous
craftsmanship that is the true
signature of haute couture.
One focus in the exhibition is a
catalogue of exquisite dresses that,
even today, would fit in fine at the
famous Debutante Ball, held at
the revamped Hôtel de Crillon.
Influenced by the graphic quality of
Art Deco, the rich ornamentation
of embroidery, crystals, bows and
beading is expressed judiciously.
The outlook, too, is international.
Take the lamé dress, with its blue
silk train quilted in the Japanese
obi belt technique, that was
inspired by her extensive travels.
Other beaded silk dresses from
the 1920s could easily be mistaken
for a modern Lanvin piece from
current artistic director Alber
Elbaz whose bejewelled mini
dresses are de rigeur. Thanks to the
summer sales (24 June-4 August),
you can buy one for a snip of the
usual price at Lanvin’s historic
atelier on Rue du Faubourg SaintHonoré. It is located just steps
away from the Golden Triangle –
an area bordered by the ChampsElysées, Avenue Montaigne and
Avenue Marceau – where you’ll
find the world’s most famous
fashion houses.
Grands magasins (department
stores) such as Galeries Lafayette,
Le Printemps and Le Bon Marché
are other big-name fashion
addresses, while the arcades
around the Louvre hide posh
boutiques such as La Petite Robe
Noire, where Didier Ludot collects
and sells little black dresses from
the 1920s to 1990s. You’ll want to
wear one to the new Caffè Stern,
designed by Philippe Starck