Palais Galliera, in collaboration with Alber Elbaz the artistic director of Maison Lanvin, recently opened a fantastic retrospective of Lanvin's amazing career. Dramatically presented as pages fallen from a book, the life and work of Jeanne Lanvin unfolds against a stream of mirrors. Over one hundred dresses, gowns, coats and accessories as well as sketches, magazine illustrations, publicity and pattern books tell the story of this influential couturier.
Women's bonnets, circa 1912
To maintain her exacting standards of workmanship, the Maison Lanvin employed over one thousand highly trained seamstresses and needle-workers and offered an on-site nursery for her employee's children. She was also one of the first designers to create four collections a year, one for each season, with each season comprising 200 looks.
Vest "Vogue", 1924
Detail of beading and Swarovski crystal embroidery
on a black velvet background
The "robe de style", a sort of garden party dress with a tiny waist and a full skirt became known as the "Lanvin dress" in the 1920s. Usually decorated with her opulent ornamentation, the style was interpreted for children, girls and women and was a steady best seller.
Robe de Style "Colombine", 1924-24
Ivory silk taffeta with black velvet appliques,
large flat beads embroidered with gold thread and
a red silk velvet bow
Indeed, the extensive decoration of Lanvin designs with metallic, crystal and glass beads, sequins, buttons and applique turned the dresses into pieces of jewelry that shimmered and glittered as the wearer moved. While the motifs ranged from the naturalistic to the surreal, each was jaw-droppingly gorgeous - and unquestionably the work of Jeanne Lanvin.
Evening gown "La Cavallini", 1925
Black taffeta with bow embroidered in
silver threads, beads, Swarovski crystals and pearls
Jeanne Lanvin drew her inspiration from sources as diverse as ecclesiastical vestments, the French colonial empire, Russian peasants, Wagnerian opera, and the geometry of Art Déco.
Dress "Boulogne", Summer 1920
Beige and red crêpe, red stitching,
navy blue appliques and embroidered with white beads
Looking back over the life and career of Jeanne Lanvin, one realizes how truly extraordinary and ahead of her time she was. The original "lifestyle guru" she was a devoted mother, and successful business woman even during the Great Depression, and the company she founded continues to thrive to this day. And if the long queue of people waiting eagerly to enter the Palais Galliera is any indication, the legacy of Jeanne Lanvin will live on well into the future.