Jeanne Lanvin

Birthplace: Brittany, France

Awards: Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, 1926 Officier de la Legion d'Honneur, 1938 De d'Or Award (Golden Thimble), 1990, 1991

Jeanne Lanvin entered the fashion business in 1890 by opening a millinery house. However, it would not be her headwear designs that would launch her career. In addition to designing headwear, Lanvin was designing charming, youthful garments for her daughter. These creations were noticed by other women, and in 1909 she converted her millinery business to a custom-made children's clothing business. Soon, the composition of Lan-vin's business would change again. The clientele who had patronized her for garments for their children also sought her out for garments for themselves. The designs Lanvin developed for these women had the same youthful exuberance as her children's wear, with soft colors and feminine embroidery details.

Lanvin is perhaps best known for her robe de style, an adaptation of the eighteenth-century pannier ensemble which she introduced in the early 1920s. Like other designers in the 1920s, Lanvin was creating ensembles for the new, active woman. However, the tea gowns and dinner pajamas she introduced all still reflected her characteristic youthful styling, with romantic, feminine colors and details. During the 1920s and 1930s, Lanvin began to expand her business by adding a menswear line (1926), and the fragrances My Sin (1925), Arpege (1927), Scandal (1931), Runeur (1934), and Pretexts (1937).

After her death in 1946, Lanvin's daughter, Mari-Blanche de Polignac, ran the design house until 1958, at which time other designers were brought into the house. As one of the oldest existing fashion houses, the House of Lanvin has witnessed a succession of talented couture, ready-to-wear, and menswear designers. Through these designers, the House of Lan-vin has continued to expand its product offerings to include sportswear, fur, accessories, ready-to-wear, knitwear, cosmetics, and additional fragrances. However, this progression of designers also resulted in conflicting design direction because each designer brought his or her own unique style to the house. Ultimately, the couture line was canceled in 1993, and the house switched its focus to women's and men's ready-to-wear. During the last fifty years, the House of Lanvin has been home to such designers as Antonio del Castillo (1950-1963), Jules-Francois Crahay (1963-1984), Maryll Lanvin (1985-1989), Claude Montana (1990-1992), Eric Bergere (1989-1991), Dominique Morlotti (1992-1995), and Ocimar Versolato (1995-1997).

Since 1998 Cristina Ortiz, former design director at Prada, has been the head designer for the House of Lanvin. The House of Lanvin still continues to be known for clothing with "discreet elegance." One of the most prestigious labels in the fashion world, it produces contemporary, sophisticated designs which are the epitome of French elegance for men and women. See also: Claude Montana.

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