Handbag History    Lanvin

A Love Letter to Lanvin

Diving into the history of Parisian fashion house, Lanvin, and the man ushering in a brass-filled new era

The end of fashion month often comes with waves of emotion and some much-needed time to ponder the last several weeks of a whirlwind month. I say goodbye to friends I see only a few times a year, I say goodbye to shooting incredible street style day in and day out, I think about where there’s room for improvement next season, and I take inventory of what really stood out to me from this, now completed, season of the fashion industry’s latest showcases.

Sometimes my biggest takeaway is a trend that appears to be swallowing the street style scene whole (like y2k-chaos last season), sometimes my takeaway is regarding the general mood or demeanor of the fashion community, the trends in who seems to be “in” or “out” (the recent explosion of TikTokers at fashion week comes to mind), but sometimes it’s much simpler than that. Sometimes I attend a show that, very plainly, just does it for me. What I haven’t been able to get out of my head from this past season is the elegance of the historic house, Lanvin.

The Initial Sighting

As I got to Lanvin, I was immediately struck by the sleek and simple yet exquisite handbags those in attendance were carrying. They were striking, and I wondered how I had never seen or noticed them. Clearly, this was my first time attending a Lanvin fashion show.

The simple leather silhouettes embellished with stunning brass handles and hardware were reminiscent of the elegance of Schiaparelli and the if-you-know-you-know factor of a Loewe. And admittedly, I didn’t know. But I desperately wanted to. And not just the name of the bags, the prices, or where to find them; I wanted the whole story. Of the dozens and dozens of shows I attend to document street style during fashion month, why was this the label that left me speechless?

Lanvin Bags 5
Lanvin Bags

The History of Lanvin

Luckily, with a house as historic and history-rich as Lanvin, I didn’t have to dig much before I found exactly why this house had something so undeniably special: it began at the hand of an undeniably special woman.

In 1889, at just 22 years old, Jeanne Lanvin opened her first Parisian hat shop after completing her apprenticeship underneath a local milliner. The oldest of 11 children and the product of a time where opportunities for women were limited, Lanvin defied the odds and became an instant smash, quickly rising to prominence as the go-to hat-maker for the women of Parisian society.

By 1909, after the birth of her beloved daughter, Marguerite (depicted with Jeanne in the house’s infamous logo), Lanvin began to reach new heights. With a booming children’s collection in full swing, Lanvin knew it was time to press onward and truly embrace being the designer she was destined to be, officially being inducted into the Parisian Fashion Council.

Maison Lanvin
Jeanne Lanvin draping fabric on a mannequin, 1936 image via Lanvin © Laure Albin Guillot / Roger-Viollet

Over the course of the next 3 decades until her passing in 1946, Lanvin went on to design women’s and men’s collections, haute couture, perfumes, home goods, sportswear, and so much more, taking the Lanvin name global while simultaneously seeing it through not one, but two world wars, leaving Lanvin as the oldest continuous fashion house in Parisian history.

After Jeanne Lanvin’s passing, her daughter helmed the ship until 1950, when she was succeeded by a string of long-standing creative directors such as Antonio Canovas del Castillo, Jules-François Crahay, and a niece of Jeanne Lanvin’s (by marriage), Maryll Lanvin.

Modern Lanvin

In the 1980s, Lanvin underwent a series of buyouts until 1996, when it was acquired wholly by cosmetics giant L’Oréal, previously a partial owner. Having pulled out of Haute Couture just three years before to maintain a “focus on luxury women’s [ready to wear] and accessories and its made-to-measure men’s sportswear line,” a blitz of creative directors then took the reins throughout the 90s and into the early 2000s when finally, something (or someone) stuck.

After yet another change of hands in the ownership of Lanvin, Alber Elbaz was appointed creative director in 2002 and went on to see Lanvin through the early 2000s and deep into the 2010s, eventually being succeeded by two very brief-stinted creative directors until their current and youngest-yet, Bruno Sialelli, was appointed in 2019 after the Lanvin Group’s most recent acquisition by Chinese billionaire Guo Guangchang.

Back to the Bags

Bruno Sialelli’s vision for Lanvin has been clear from the start. As his work at Lanvin began to generate buzz and attract celebrity clientele, he told The Hollywood Reporter in September of 2022 that his goal is to “bring back Madame Lanvin’s enterprising, forward-looking vision.”

Blending past and present, “reimagining forgotten elements of Jeanne Lanvin’s archive,” Sialelli has breathed new life and a sense of focus into a house that seemed to be flailing after the loss of Elbaz, and the handbags are the ultimate proof.

Lanvin Bags 2
Lanvin Bags 6

A trip through the Vogue Runway Lanvin archives and a dive into youtube-available runway sets from the 90s show a presence of handbags in past Lanvin collections but nothing incredibly memorable, nothing at the forefront.

This changed when Sialelli took the reins, with bags adorning the arms and shoulders of just about every model on his runways, and not just bags for bags sake like before, but striking bags, bags with it-bag potential.

Mirroring Jeanne Lanvin’s knack for spotting industry directives and opportunities for growth, in addition to his impeccable designs, Sialelli’s focus on leather goods and other accessories led the Lanvin brand, according to Luxury Tribune, to increased sales of more than 100% between 2021 and 2022 alone.

With sales on the rise and positive press surrounding his latest work, Paris’s beloved house of Lanvin has found its saving grace in both Sialelli and his bags of brass, with a formal introduction into it-bag territory just on the horizon.

photos via @bykylemark for PurseBlog


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