When I walked into the new exhibition of Lanvin dresses at Palais Galliera this morning, Anna Wintour was being taken around by Alber Elbaz, the current Lanvin designer and co- curator of the show, with Olivier Saillard, who runs the Museum of Fashion. It was clever of course to open this retrospective of 90 dresses by the Grande dame de la mode of the 1920’s on the first day of fashion week.
I bet Wintour did not know that Lanvin was already 33 at the turn of the century and still a milliner. But very soon, this young lady, the eldest of 11, born on the First of January 1867, would start her bridal collection and her children fashion for daughter Marguerite in 1908 and couture the following year.
The exhibit starts with a moving close up picture of the designer’s hands and two dresses seen from the back. One, « Walkyrie »1935, is inspired by a Japanese Obi with topstiched navy blue silk, the other, « My Fair Lady » 1939, has a huge taffeta knot on white ribbon and black tulle. A little further, appears the coat « Lohengrin » 1931, in silk satin gold lamé which looks so modern with its silver threads that it could almost have been a Montana for Lanvin, 1989. While studying a black satin coat 1931, I bumped into the fashion writer Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni, who admired its large fur pockets, a style that Alber Elbaz uses in his own line, she said.
Lanvin embroidered a lot of crystal and synthetic pearls in black and white, and silvered sequins on her dresses. It’s quite logical then that Swarowski sponsored the show, with special « piano» type cases where some of the dresses lie flat and reflect in a mirror. I very much liked the dress « Lesbos » 1925, which I could see Natalie Barney wear for dinner in Montparnasse. It is green (mustard green) satin, embroidered with glass and silver beads and has bare shoulders. The “Scintillante” was also one of my favorite, with interlaced silver sequins on a trompe l’œil bolero. A black taffeta evening coat 1937, shown with the bridal gowns glitters in the light and hangs around the neck in a very special way.
The exhibition is spectacular in that it shows superb workmanship and technique and the film and photographs are precious. But I missed the furniture that Jeanne Lanvin designed with Iribe and Rateau and the atmosphere she created around her fashion.
And was it fun ? I am not sure….(until August 23)
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