CR Muse: Jeanne Lanvin, Mother of Fashion


This is CR Muse, a series dedicated to the remembrance of important artists and idea-makers from our past who have shaped culture as we know it today. From traditional creators to those of conceptual thought, we celebrate these women known not only for their work but their confident, eccentric style as well.

The house of Lanvin’s original logo—a mother and a child twirling around—is central to how founder Jeanne Lanvin first began her business. The designer’s fashion career stemmed through a desire to outfit her daughter in the most beautiful clothes possible. What she wound up building became one of the oldest French fashion houses in operation today.

Lanvin was born January 1, 1867 in Paris. Her fashion career began at the age of 13 when she began working for a milliner. She eventually became the milliner’s apprentice, and at the age of 22, she opened her own boutique.

The designer’s whole world changed with the birth of her daughter in 1897. Marguerite “Marie-Blanche” di Pietro (Lanvin married the Italian nobleman Count Emilio di Pietro in 1885) became her muse. She began designing clothes for her child, believing that her little girl should be dressed in the most beautiful clothes possible. Naturally, Marguerite’s style caught the attention—and adoration—of others. So, in 1908, Lanvin decided to share her creativity and launched a childrenswear line, a first in the world of high fashion. A year later, she cemented her couturier status by joining the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture. As more wealthy women bought Lanvin’s clothes for their daughters, requests for adult clothing came in, too. Lanvin obliged, thus launching her eponymous womenswear line.

Lanvin’s calling card was her robe de style dress—a gown that hung straight and narrow on the torso, but ballooned out widely at the hips, similar to silhouettes from the 18th century. Adorned with intricate beading or embroidery, Lanvin’s dresses were a whimsical contrast to the minimalistic sporty looks of her contemporaries, like Coco Chanel. It was a much more feminine take on the then-modern flapper style. Considering the line was born from childrenswear, it comes as no surprise that Lanvin’s clothes were quite youthful.

By the 1920s, business was booming. The house of Lanvin had become a full-blown lifestyle brand, expanding into perfumes and household goods. In 1926, she launched a made-to-measure menswear line, becoming the first Parisian designer to do so. “Men, women, children, perfume, decoration: All of these departments which constitute a fashion house, she had at the very beginning of the 20th century,” Olivier Saillard, who curated a retrospective of the house at the Palais Galliera in 2015, once explained.

Lanvin died in 1946. For a time, Marguerite helmed the house, as have a revolving door of artistic directors including Alber Elbaz, Bouchra Jarrar, and the brand’s current designer, Bruno Sialelli. Although Lanvin has ceased the production of couture, one thing that’s remained is the original logo. A mother’s adoration of her daughter is what kicked Lanvin’s whole story off. The dancing emblem reminds us of that love.


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