The eldest of 11 children born into poverty, Parisian Jeanne Lanvin (b. 1867) got an early start in fashion when at the age of 16, she worked as an apprentice milliner at the renowned Madame Félix hat shop on Paris’ famed Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. She then went on to train in dressmaking at Talbot and at the ripe young age of 22, set up her own milliner shop on the same celebrated street. Lanvin’s star rose as she soon became known amongst famous and highbrow Parisian clientele for her modern-edged mother-and-daughter outfits and luxurious robes. She married her first husband and birthed a daughter, Marguerite, who eventually became the fashion house’s director. In 1909, Lavin joined the notorious Syndicat de la Couture, marking her official emergence as a bona fide couturier. Her sphere continued to expand as she opened numerous home décor, menswear, fur and lingerie shops. But most significantly, the launch of Lanvin Parfums SA in 1924 with the subsequent introduction of her signature fragrance, Arpège, following shortly thereafter, in addition to Baccarat’s manufacture of Lanvin’s crystal bottles, put her firmly on the style map. Considered one of the hottest fashion designers in the ‘20’s and '30’s, her design trademarks of elaborate trimmings, stunning embroidery and beaded ornamentation in light floral colors became clear standouts. At the apex of her popularity, the design house notably employed an excess of 800 employees.
She died in 1946 and the fashion empire was left in the hands of family members. But in 1989, UK’s Midland Bank bought a stake in the company and installed Léon Bressler to revitalize the brand. A mere year later, the bank sold-out to the French holding company, Orcofi, led by the legendary Vuitton family. From there, a 50% stake was acquired by L'Oréal and their ownership increased steadily until 1996, when it owned the house outright. In 2001, Lanvin was once again bought-out by a private investor group, Harmonie S.A., helmed by Mrs. Shaw-Lan Wang (the Taiwanese media mogul). Later the same year, the accomplished designer, Alber Elbaz, became Artistic Director. The head office remains, as always, in Paris.
In the mid-1920’s, the design house recruited expert “nose,” André Fraysse, and launched an impressive spate of Lanvin perfumes and scents: Arpège, Niv Nal, Irise, Kara – Djenoun, Le Sillon, Chypre, Comme-Ci Comme-Ca, Lajea, J'En Raffole, La Dogaresse, Ou Fleurit L’oranger, Geranium D’espagne, Apres-Sport, friction Jeanne Lanvin, Cross-Country, La Boule, Pretexte, L’Ame Perdue/Lost Soul, Petales Froissees, Scandal, L’Eau De Lanvin, Rumeur, Crescendo, Monsieur Lanvin, Vetyver Lanvin, Via Lanvin, Lanvin For Men, Cardomone, Clair De Jour and Mon Peche/My Sin. Many of these fragrances are no longer in production due to sale of the brand over the years. In more recent years, the scents d’Eclat d’Arpege, Lanvin Man and Lanvin Vetyver were produced, as well as Oxygene in differing versions for both women and men.
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