Visionary designer Jeanne Lanvin – INPI treasures
Important things to know:
- Lanvin is the OLDEST fashion house in the world;
- Lanvin is the FIRST Haute Couture house in France;
- Jeanne Lanvin is the FIRST designer who cut the women’s skirt, make it a little shorter, to liberate the moves;
- Jeanne Lanvin is the FIRST designer / fashion house who proposed catalogs with looks and created dresses on distance, and send them by post.
INPI archives have several treasures – designs of Jeanne Lanvin.
RUNWAY MAGAZINE presents INPI treasures – innovations in fashion. The National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) examines and issues industrial property titles (patents, trademarks, designs and models) in France. Created in 1951 under the supervision of the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, it is the heir to the institutions that have preceded it since the end of the 18th century. As such, the INPI is responsible for the management of these public archives and has thus become one of the memories of innovation in France. It watches over a rich heritage, made up of all patents since 1791, trademarks since 1857 and designs since 1910: nearly 7.5 million documents, or 145 linear kilometers carefully preserved. The fruit of generations of inventors, engineers, industrialists, creators and even artists, these archives are of unique historical and documentary interest and represent a still little-known iconographic source.
Visionary designer Jeanne Lanvin – INPI treasures
A hard worker, Jeanne Lanvin began her milliner’s apprenticeship at very young age and proved to be quite creative. The hats created by Mademoiselle Jeanne were met with great success, and Jeanne already dreamed of opening her own shop. The dream would soon become a reality for the then 22-year-old milliner. Through her many sacrifices and persistence, she managed to get “Lanvin (Mademoiselle Jeanne) Modes” hats worn by the most fashionable Parisians.
Marguerite Lanvin, daughter of Jeanne, was always a source of inspiration for the young designer. The mother and daughter never left each others sides. It wasn’t uncommon to catch sight of Marguerite meandering around the hat shelves in the store, and her elegance was well noted. A new opportunity then presented itself to Jeanne Lanvin, who decided to delve into children’s clothing.
As Marguerite grew older, Jeanne designed new collections and her business transformed into a thriving fashion house. Marguerite, who had become a beautiful young woman and a modern socialite, was the brand’s muse. Jeanne drew inspiration from her everyday life for her collections, combining elegance, femininity, and youth.
This extraordinary mother-daughter relationship is deeply connected to the brand’s history. It was out of love for Marguerite that Jeanne Lanvin began designing dresses. Jeanne launched the legendary perfume Arpège in 1927 for her daughter-known by that time as Marie-Blanche de Polignac-as a birthday present. It was even through this bond of maternal love that the brand’s emblem was born: “The woman and the child.”
Jeanne Lanvin was a pioneer in many fields. It was important for her to forge ahead and never fall behind. A jack of all trades, the designer developed the brand’s business by regularly opening new departments in order to meet the needs of an evolving society.
Hats, children’s clothing, young ladies’ and women’s collections, furs, lingerie, wedding gowns, sports attire, men’s collections, perfumes, and even decor: through her audacity, Jeanne Lanvin gradually built an empire and heralded a lifestyle revolution.
She was the first to launch a children’s fashion line in 1908, the first to offer a made-to-measure men’s collection in 1926, and even the first to create a mixed eau de toilette in 1933. At its peak, Lanvin had nearly 1,200 employees, many stores, and several branches throughout the world, all thanks to the vision of an exceptional woman.
When she wasn’t working on her next collection, Jeanne Lanvin would frequently travel, taking the time to log everything she saw and everything that inspired her. Her travel journals were never far from her when she was working, carefully stored away in her office’s bookcase.
In addition to her memories, Jeanne Lanvin would write about objects she had found, fabric samples, or the traditional clothing of the countries she or her close friends and family would visit: Indian saris, Chinese attire, toreador outfits, or ethnic embroideries and material.
Although she mostly kept to herself, her artistic sensibility and creative spirit opened the doors very early on to the most avant-garde artistic circles of her time. Jeanne Lanvin would diligently socialize with the painters of the Nabis movement, in particular Édouard Vuillard, with whom she shared an obsession with color.
She collected works by Renoir, Degas, Fantin-Latour, Fragonard, and many others, and she was highly influenced by the impressionists’ use of light and the symbolic works of Odilon Redon. These artistic affinities could often be seen in the brand’s collections. For Jeanne Lanvin, they translated into a passion for color, which would push her to open her own dye factory in 1923.
Jeanne Lanvin had many inspirations, but elegance, femininity, and modernity were the designer’s key words. In the 1920s, Lanvin stood out for its use of bold colors combined with innovative decorative techniques. Ribbons, embroideries, pearls, and precious details adorned dresses without ever compromising the ateliers’ cutting work and exceptional construction. The use of black and white was frequently incorporated with the brand’s iconic colors, such as Lanvin blue. This combination, sometimes interspersed with touches of silver, represented the peak of chic in the mid-1920s. It was the result of geometric research inspired by the Art Deco movement at the height of its influence.
Distant from social events, the designer evolved within restricted and intimate circles of artists, writers, and musicians. It was very rare to see her at a ball or at Longchamp races, and if by chance you ran into her there, it was because she came to observe the elegant Parisians in order to better anticipate their future demands.
Jeanne Lanvin was, above all, a visionary and pioneer, a loving mother, and a talented designer who succeeded in building a fashion house from nothing, which is still renowned throughout the world today.
On July 6, 1946, Jeanne Lanvin passed away peacefully at the age of 79. Jeanne—the milliner, the designer, the decorator, the perfume manufacturer, “Madame” as her staff called her—left behind an empire in her wake.
In 1915, despite the war, Jeanne took part to the Universal Exhibition in San Francisco with thirteen other French companies which represented the rise of haute couture and its international influence. Success then allowed her to establish herself in the United States over the long term.
This development also leads to a strategy of protecting new creations. Since 1909, a law has allowed creators, whether designers, artists or manufacturers, to protect their works through a unique filing procedure: industrial designs.
This protection now applies to any new design, any new form, any industrial object which differs, either by a distinct and recognizable configuration giving it a novelty character, or by one or more external effects giving it a new and specific appearance.
From 1916 and until 1934, the collections of Jeanne Lanvin were thus protected in the form of sketches or photographs. They are now part of the heritage archives kept by the French patent and trademark office.
Materials and Photos: Courtesy of INPI, Private collections, Patrimoine Lanvin, Paris