Among French luxury fashion houses, Lanvin has always been in a league of its own. Started in 1889, it’s the oldest still in operation, and its namesake founder Jeanne Lanvin remains one of the industry’s most enduring names.
Hers was one of the earliest lifestyle fashion empires, juggling couture, perfume, bridal and – her most famous contribution – matching mother-daughter wear all at a go. (The fact that she did all this in the male-dominated ’20s is all the more impressive.) Even more significant is the way she dressed women. While her pieces weren’t cutting edge, they were always youthful yet elegant, appealing to one’s feminine side with their pretty colours and sumptuous fabrics.
From this season – following former creative director Alber Elbaz’s 14-year run – the brand again falls into the hands of a French woman many insiders would describe as ahead of her time. Her name: Bouchra Jarrar. Her background includes working next to Nicolas Ghesquiere as studio director at Balenciaga from the late ’90s to 2006, as well as heading Christian Lacroix’s couture department. Three years ago, she was granted couturier status by the French fashion governing body Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture, making her the first woman to earn the title in over 30 years.
Starting her cult eponymous ready-to-wear and couture label in 2010 (she shuttered it in March following her appointment at Lanvin), she’s built a reputation for her modern, precise tailoring. A woman is at her most elegant in pants, she says. It might seem a world away from Lanvin’s original romantic confections, but Jarrar’s work actually parallels them (if her Resort 2017 debut is any indication).
An introductory assemblage of what she deems “staples”, everything – like what Jeanne Lanvin championed – is effortless yet sophisticated. From relaxed suits to crepe de Chine blouses to Lanvin’s signature tubular dresses, lines are simple and sinuous, lending sensuality to a wardrobe that transitions easily from day to night. (Jarrar’s own touch comes in the form of slightly boxy jackets in tweed and leather, thrown over bustier tops and camisoles.) The most feminine pieces that look like modern interpretations of Lanvin’s womanly vision: crepe maxi skirts paired with tie-neck silk blouses in matching jewel tones like coral.
Says Jarrar: “I understand the power of clothes. It’s why I give a lot of attention to proportions; I like to optimise them. I want women to be beautiful – that’s my job.”
This story first appeared in Female‘s December 2016 issue.