Lesser-known fashion great Jeanne Lanvin is honoured with a new exhibition at Paris' Palais Galliera

A new Paris exhibition paints
A new Paris exhibition paints a stunning portrait of fashion designer Jeanne Lanvin, framing her creations - upwards of 100 examples - in the context of her life (1867-1946)
(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

Lanvin is among the select group of venerable fashion houses whereby mere mention of its name elicits praise. But the person behind the name, founder Jeanne Lanvin, has never been cast in quite the same legendary light as Coco Chanel or even Elsa Schiaparelli.

A new exhibition at the Palais Galliera (opens in new tab) paints a stunning portrait of the designer, framing her creations - upwards of 100 examples - in the context of her life (1867-1946). Olivier Saillard, the museum's general curator worked closely with Alber Elbaz, Lanvin's director par excellence since 2001. Together, they steer visitors through a beautiful narrative that beings with a photograph of the designer at age 70, shielding her face with her hands, and ends with a sculpted evening coat in deep blue taffeta that dates back to the immediate aftermath of WWII.

To see the maison's codes take shape - the inclusion, for instance, of the gilded dolls depicting Lanvin with her daughter Marguerite that would become the house logo in 1924 - is to realise how the brand is the sum total of personal stories. Even the signature blue, which became the official company colour in 1921, comes with a story. Saillard, in a text found in the catalogue, notes Lanvin's point of differentiation from her female contemporaries: 'Lanvin was the first to give overall thought to lifestyle.'

The show, simply titled 'Jeanne Lanvin' as if underscoring the focus, is the first of its kind in Paris - which seems even more surprising when you consider that the French fashion house holds the distinction of being oldest still in operation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is little mention of the present years.

Instead, visitors peer into chic mirrored vitrines outlined in black; deliberate or not, they evoke the grosgrain that is now inextricably linked to the Lanvin aesthetic. Dresses from 80 years back appear remarkably contemporary, with ornamentation expressed judiciously and feminine silhouettes redefined with soigné ease. But Lanvin was also highly influenced by graphic impact and travel and her prime years coincided with a high period in Art Deco (in fact, her dresses often debuted at the international exhibitions in Paris - arguably a far more impressive platform than a salon presentation).

Saillard, for his part, does acknowledge the through-line between both talents, pointing out that they share a 'taste for discretion'. Similarly, Albaz has referred to the retrospective as a 'whispering exhibition'. And as you observe the subtlety of such impressive detailing evolve over several decades, you understand precisely what he means.

The museum's general curator worked

Olivier Saillard, the museum's general curator worked closely with Alber Elbaz, Lanvin's director par excellence since 2001

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

The signature blue, which became the official company colour

Even the signature blue, which became the official company colour in 1921, comes with a story. Saillard, in a text found in the catalogue, notes Lanvin's point of differentiation from her female contemporaries: 'Lanvin was the first to give overall thought to lifestyle'

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

The maison's codes take shape

To see the maison's codes take shape - the inclusion, for instance, of the gilded dolls depicting Lanvin with her daughter Marguerite that would become the house logo in 1924 - is to realise how the brand is the sum total of personal stories

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

The show, simply titled 'Jeanne Lanvin'

The show, simply titled 'Jeanne Lanvin' as if underscoring the focus, is the first of its kind in Paris - which seems even more surprising when you consider that the French fashion house holds the distinction of being oldest still in operation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is little mention of the present years

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

Visitors peer into chic mirrored vitrines outlined in black

Instead, visitors peer into chic mirrored vitrines outlined in black; deliberate or not, they evoke the grosgrain that is now inextricably linked to the Lanvin aesthetic

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

Pointing out that they share a 'taste for discretion'

Saillard, for his part, does acknowledge the through-line between both talents, pointing out that they share a 'taste for discretion'

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

Ornamentation expressed judiciously and feminine silhouettes redefined

Dresses from 80 years back appear remarkably contemporary, with ornamentation expressed judiciously and feminine silhouettes redefined with soigné ease

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

Dresses often debuted at the international exhibitions in Paris

But Lanvin was also highly influenced by graphic impact and travel and her prime years coincided with a high period in Art Deco - in fact, her dresses often debuted at the international exhibitions in Paris, arguably a far more impressive platform than a salon presentation

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

The retrospective as a 'whispering exhibition'

Albaz has referred to the retrospective as a 'whispering exhibition'

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

Such impressive detailing evolve over several decades

And as you observe the subtlety of such impressive detailing evolve over several decades, you understand precisely what he means

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

Certainly casts the designer in the same legendary light

'Jeanne Lanvin' runs until 23 August, 2015, and certainly casts the designer in the same legendary light as is shone on the likes of Coco Chanel or even Elsa Schiaparelli

(Image credit: Jeanne Lanvin)

ADDRESS

Palais Galliera (opens in new tab)
10, Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie
Paris 75116

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