May 1, 2010

I was rushing through Barney’s the other day and saw this unique piece out of the corner of my eye.  Isn’t it so quirky?  I mean who buys a bejeweled lemon necklace…  but it’s cool.  The manufacturer is Lanvin, a company with a lot of history as it turns out… famous for much more than “candied” fruit.

Jeanne Lanvin born Jeanne-Marie Lanvin, Paris, January 1, 1867–d. Paris, July 6, 1946 was a French fashion designer.  Lanvin was the eldest of 11 children. At age 16, she was an apprentice milliner at Madame Félix in Paris; then trained at dressmaker Talbot and, 1889, set up as a milliner at 22 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  Jeanne Lanvin married the Henri-Émile-Georges di Pietro and gave birth to a daughter, Marguerite, who became a talented opera singer and eventually became the director of the Lanvin fashion house. (1925, Marguerite married the Comte Jean de Polignac [Paris, June 11, 1888–Paris, October 22, 1943] who rebaptised her to become the Comtess Marie-Blanche de Polignac [Paris, August 31, 1897–Paris, February 14, 1958]). Jeanne Lanvin made such beautiful clothes for the child that they began to attract the attention of a number of wealthy people who requested copies for their own daughters. Soon, Lanvin was making dresses for their mothers, and some of the most famous names in Europe were included in the clientele of her new boutique on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris. 1909, Lavin joined the Syndicat de la Couture, which marked her formal status as a couturière.

From 1923, the Lanvin empire included a dye factory in Nanterre. 1920s, Lavin opened shops devoted to home decor, menswear, furs and lingerie, but her most significant expansion was the creation of Lanvin Parfums SA in 1924 and the introduction of her signature fragrance Arpège in 1927, inspired by the sound of her daughter’s practising her scales on the piano.

One of the most influential designers of the 1920s and ’30s, Jeanne Lanvin’s skilful use of intricate trimmings, virtuoso embroideries and beaded decorations in clear, light, floral colors became a Lanvin trademark.  When Lanvin died in 1946, ownership of the firm was ceded to daughter Marie-Blanche, who shared management of the firm from 1942 with a cousin and then a fashion-industry expert. Because she was childless when she died in 1958, the ownership of the House of Lanvin went to a cousin, Yves Lanvin.

The company has shuttled from here and there, beginning in March 1989 when Britain’s Midland Bank bought a stake in the company from the family. The bank brought in Léon Bressler to revamp the firm’s faded image. However, February 1990, Midland backed out and sold Lanvin to Orcofi, the French holding company led by the Vuitton family. From Orcofi, 50% of the House of Lanvin was acquired by L’Oréal in 1994, 66% in 1995 and 100% in 1996. Under L’Oréal’s far-too-diverse umbrella, an array of CEOs who circulate within the French fashion industry directed the company.  August 2001, Lanvin, the oldest fashion house still in operation, was taken private again by investor group Harmonie S.A., headed by Mrs. Shaw-Lan Wang, a Taiwanese media magnate. And, October 2001, Alber Elbaz was appointed the Lanvin artistic director for all activities, including interiors, and he has conducted his responsibilities in a highly personal, hands-on manner. 2006, he introduced new packaging for the fashion house, featuring a forget-me-not flower color, Lanvin’s favorite shade which she purportedly saw in a Fra Angelico fresco.


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