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The Enduring French Haute Couture House that Inspires & Impresses to this Day in Several Fashion Categories

By: Geoff Ficke

The eponymous founder of the House of Lanvin, Madame Jeanne Lanvin was a Parisian couturier who was first admitted to the prestigious Syndicate de la Couture in 1909. At the time, Madame Lanvin had gained a following of wealthy Parisian clients attracted to the children’s clothing she was designing for her own daughter; the future opera star Marie Blanche di Pietro. Her lovely creations were in great demand initially for little upper-crust girls, and then for their gentrified mothers who sought to co-ordinate their dresses and millinery with their daughters style.

Madame Lanvin’s couture business boomed almost immediately and she soon opened a boutique on the ever-fashionable Rue Fauborg St. Honore in Paris. Her modernist styling cues, eye for fabric and color, and elegant detailing appealed to wealthy mothers and daughters from all over Europe. In 1923 the House of Lanvin opened a dye producing factory in Nanterre. This extension of the business accelerated the firm’s ability to provide vivid, novel and the most beautiful fabrics for use in their couture business and for sales to other clothing manufacturers.

As growth continued throughout the 1920’s the House of Lanvin open boutiques dedicated to home décor, fur, menswear and lingerie.

It was in 1924 that Lanvin Parfums SA was formed and in 1927 Madame Lanvin made her most important commercial expansion. It was in that year that she introduced the classic fragrance Arpege. The name was inspired by the sound of Marie Blanche practicing the scales on her piano (Arpege is derived from the word pronounced and spelled “arpeggio” in French). Arpege was an instant commercial success and is still one of the best selling scents in the world.

The great interior designer and artist of the day Armand Albert Rateau had been engaged to decorate Madame Lanvin’s apartment and country homes in the early 1920’s. She was so impressed with his creativity and spatial sensibility that he was commissioned to design the famous La Boule crystal flacon for Arpege perfume. This gorgeous example of luxury packaging has retained its popularity to this day and still enhances the desirability of Arpege as a classic fragrance brand.

In 1907 the well known portrait artist Paul Iribe had been commissioned to paint the likeness of Madame Lanvin and her daughter in a golden image. This rendering has been imprinted on every bottle of world famous Arpege perfume and bath and body products ever sold. The love of mother and daughter is apparent to us over a century later.

The House of Lanvin was successful under the steady guidance and entrepreneurial hand of Jeanne Lanvin for the first half of the 20th century. During this time period, no consumer of haute couture visited Paris without visiting Madame Lanvin’s boutiques to experience first-hand the finest in understated elegance and craftsmanship. The finest department and specialty stores around the world carried her lines of fragrance, couture and fashion accessories on an exclusive basis.

Today, the Lanvin boutique on Rue Fauborg St. Honore is still a fashion shrine. The current head designer Alber Elbaz has maintained the traditions of classicism and excellence demanded by Jeanne Lanvin. Lanvin licensed products are produced to the highest specification and standards of quality and distributed on an exclusive basis. Arpege fragrances are in distribution to better stores around the world and still greatly appreciated by discerning ladies seeking the feminine, understated notes the scent purveys.

Jeanne Lanvin built a timeless brand. She was an entrepreneur with perfect fashion instincts. These sensibilities extended to men’s haberdashery, fur, interior décor,
manufacturing, perfumery, fashion accessories of course her signature fashion house. This innovator was never interested in current trends but always sought to offer design that would convey artistry and elegance for the present as well as the future.