Lanvin Appoints Female Artistic Director

Photo: Getty
At last, Lanvin has appointed an official artistic director to head up its womenswear collections, following Alber Elbaz's shocking departure last year from the house. On Friday morning, it was announced that Bouchra Jarrar will assume the role, starting on Monday.

But who is Jarrar, and what does her appointment mean? It is firstly, a distinctly unusual appointment not least because she is a woman — the lack of female creative directors at fashion houses is remarkable, but the number gets even slimmer when looking at French ateliers — and is certainly a nod to its founder, Jeanne Lanvin, who launched the brand more than a century ago.

While Coco Chanel is often cited as the first feminist designer, un-plucking the corset and introducing slacks and flats to modern women's wardrobes, Lanvin, who pre-dated Chanel by 25 years, deserves much the same reputation. Her designs were luxurious but wearable; in Elbaz's words, "they were soft, draped and in quiet colors — they didn't scream." In short, she cared about the comfort of women.

But back to 2016. Jarrar's fashion credentials need very little decoration; her previously held positions mean she's earned the haute couture appellation and suggest a bright future for Lanvin under her direction. In 2010, she launched her eponymous fashion house; before that, she was studio director at Balenciaga under Nicolas Ghesquière, and head of couture design for Christian Lacroix.

Of her new role, Jarrar told Business of Fashion: "It is a huge honor to continue promoting the Lanvin style, with designs created in the company's ateliers by teams who possess extraordinary expertise. Joining Lanvin meets a desire to expend my creation to wider fields of expression. It is my intention to bring to Lanvin the harmony and consistency of a fashion designed for women, a fashion of our time."

Jarrar's signature, streamlined sportswear and exquisitely-cut daywear that favors technical quality over any frilliness, might mean a loosening of ties at Lanvin; something that would certainly differ from Elbaz's aesthetic, which put the cocktail dress at the forefront of its offerings.

But, it's not just aesthetic challenges that Jarrar will have to overcome with her new appointment. Lanvin has suffered from sliding sales and in-house dissatisfaction, with workers striking and initiating work tribunal proceedings following Elbaz's removal. However, Michèle Huiban, chief executive officer of the company, has faith. She told BoF: "Bouchra Jarrar is a talented and visionary designer. She is the obvious choice for Lanvin. Her timeless style is in keeping with the style and values of our company, founded by Jeanne Lanvin more than a century ago. Her talent, her high standards and her mastery of cuts and fabrics will bring a breath of freshness and modernity into the house, while respecting its soul as the oldest Paris fashion house, a symbol of French elegance." And we couldn't agree more.
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