December 29, 2021

The Story of Jeanne Lanvin and her Paris design house

By Contemporary Cluster
The Story of Jeanne Lanvin and her Paris design house - Contemporary Cluster

The story of Lanvin begins in 1889, when Jeanne Lanvin had just turned twenty-two and finished her milliner’s apprenticeship.  She opened her first hat shop on the upper level of a store located in the heart of Paris at 16 Rue Boissy d’Anglas. Even at that young age, her talent was truly dazzling.

Four years later, Jeanne Lanvin’s crowning point came when she obtained a commercial lease on the prestigious Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and established her eponymous fashion house. Her success was instant and Parisians would flock to her boutique, named “Lanvin (Mademoiselle Jeanne) Modes.”

But it was the birth of her daughter Marguerite in 1897 that turned Jeanne Lanvin’s world upside-down. A tightly-bound relationship formed between Jeanne and her daughter.  Marguerite became her muse and Jeanne would use luxurious fabrics to create the wardrobe of every little girl’s dreams. The elegant Marguerite was quickly noticed by her friends’ mothers, who in turn became customers of the Lanvin fashion house.

Faced with this new commercial success, and now a savvy businesswoman, Jeanne Lanvin opened a children’s clothing department in 1908 and devoted an entire section of her store to this new thriving business. In 1909, orders for children’s clothing began to exceed those for hats.

Jeanne Lanvin decided it was time for her fashion house to enter into a new era: that year, she opened a Young Ladies’ and Women’s department. Mothers and daughters would come and choose their Lanvin outfits together. Day clothes, evening dresses, coats, and lingerie: Paris fell in love with the entire scope of Lanvin’s creations.

Ambitious and determined, Jeanne Lanvin became a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture (Parisian Fashion Council) that same year, officially switching her status from milliner to designer.

In 1924, Lanvin Perfumes set up shop at 4 Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées. For the former milliner, it was obvious: perfume was an essential accessory on a woman’s dressing table.

Lanvin perfume

The first fragrance was American: My Sin formulated by Maria Zède and launched in the United States in 1925, was an immediate success. But it wasn’t until 1927 that the legendary fragrance Arpege was born in France.

To celebrate her daughters thirtieth birthday, Jeanne Lanvin wanted to give her daughter Marguerite - by now Countess Marie-Blanche de Polignac - a unique perfume developed by renowned perfumer André Fraysse. When Marie-Blanche smelled this composition for the first time, featuring notes of Bulgarian rose, Grasse jasmine, honeysuckle, and lily of the valley, she exclaimed: “It’s like an arpeggio.” It was a complete triumph, and Arpège became the ultimate symbol of Jeanne’s love for her daughter.

In 1933, true to her pioneering spirit, Jeanne Lanvin launched the very first “eau mixte” for men and women: L’eau de Lanvin.

Fast forward to 2009 and in celebration of Lanvin's 120th anniversary, Alber Elbaz, in collaboration with Chinese craftsman Franz, designed seven limited porcelain figurines in tribute to the label's founder Jeanne Lanvin for the Miss Lanvin Doll Collection. Choosing key silhouettes from the season, only 800 are now produced per season - securing their place in fashion history. They are chic and sassy, oozing with the Parisian charm for which the French fashion brand is known.

Lanvin doll

But these precious, porcelain collector’s items are not for playing with. In fact, they are not for little girls at all, but savvy fashionistas wanting to capture a slice of Lanvin history - all wrapped up in Lanvin's iconic baby blue and navy packaging.

Much later, as an established fashion designer, Jeanne Lanvin sold her dolls displayed in the windows, sometimes giving them as gifts to her customers’ daughters. Today, the brand continues her legacy with Miss Lanvin Dolls.