Well dressed: The incredible legacy of Jeanne Lanvin
A Parisian retrospective
Together with Madeleine Vionnet, Gabriel Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Madam Grès, Lanvin founder Jeanne Lanvin was one of the most influential women in French fashion, propelling it back into the international spotlight at a time when the industry was dominated by men.
From Chanel's feminine appropriations of menswear to Vionnet's famous bias cut, the 1930s saw female designers make their mark. Lanvin may not have a similarly iconic claim to fame, but a new exhibition opened in her honour at the Musée Galliera in Paris brings to light the reasons behind her success.
The exhibition features 110 archival pieces created by the house of Lanvin under Jeanne Lanvin's leadership. The neoclassic halls of the Palais Galliera form a suitably spectacular backdrop for the embellished vintage dresses, which, unusually for such precious pieces, aren't protected by glass - allowing you to really study the intricate detail up close.
Each dress is breathtakingly beautiful and seeing the 110 together showcases Lanvin's eye for detail, exceptional taste and sense of proportion and colour. The dresses Lanvin showed during the famed International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts in 1925 - the same exhibition that launched Chanel's career - are all here: La Cavallini, Lesbos, Salambo, Mille et Une Nuit and our favourite, Maharamée.
The pieces Lanvin created in the '30s are also worth a look. Silhouette and cut take over from embellishment as Lanvin's style takes a turn for the clean and minimalistic. It was during this period that Lanvin showed her passion for sleeves and sculptural cuts. Case in point: her legendary My Fair Lady dress for Audrey Hepburn, made in 1939 from bias cuts of white organza with an enormous black bow.
The exhibition is a fascinating retrospective on what made Lanvin - the fashion house and its founder - so great. That each piece has stood the test of time - and could easily be shown on today's runways - is testament to the scale of their achievements.
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