Lanvin is one of the great-unrivalled comebacks of the last fifty years. Jeanne Lanvin’s fashion house founded at the beginning of the twentieth century and reaching the prestigious status of a couture house in 1909 always had a particular elegance, a unique style, reaching the height of its influence and innovation during the heady 1920’s. And though the maison always retained a certain unpretentious identity and understated elegance in the years after Jeanne Lanvin’s death, like many other great fashion houses built on the efforts of one unique and talented individual, those left with the unenviable task of maintaining its status and achievements became more preoccupied with preservation and conservation than following the more daring and directional path once walked by its founder. In short, like various other great Parisian fashion houses, it became safe, sound and consistent, its appeal attracting a more conservative market.
All that, however, changed at the start of the new millennium when the brand once again returned to private ownership and the now legendary Alber Elbaz took over its creative directorship. Perhaps the new directors were expecting that he would continue his work as a solid and stoic designer working within the very specific restrictions of tradition. Or maybe they were actually hoping it would provide him with a platform to impress the world with just how precise and quietly contemporary his talents are. Whatever the case, it is the latter that that has transpired. In approximately a decade, Lanvin under his direction has gone from safely dependable to the must-have brand with fashion directors, celebrities and trendy kids –men and women- fighting their way to the front of the queue to get their hands on his clothing.
Image is naturally part of this process. Under the leadership of Alber Elbaz, Lanvin has consistently shown its face to be hip, cool, playful and very, very contemporary whilst never undervaluing or denying its impeccable pedigree as a one of the oldest Parisian fashion houses still in operation. Unlike many other ‘heritage brands’ –and very cleverly too- Lanvin has avoided an image in which its august history is presented as an ossified museum piece; a conservative ready-to-buy bloodline buttoned down in tight classicism. No, on the contrary, much of Lanvin’s public persona has seen it both acutely proud of its great name and glorious past whilst simultaneously offering the world a playful, sharp and up-to-the-minute vision of fashion. And nothing encapsulates all of these qualities better than its stunning AW11 campaign that has already become something of a cult hit with anyone interested in top fashion.
Shot by Steven Meisel, the campaign is almost a mischievous test of the fashion insider truism that models can’t dance. That is, in fact, exactly what Mr Meisel requires of top models such as Raquel Zimmermann, Karen Elson, Lowell Tautchin and Milo Spijkers, making them to shake their booties to the unlikely choice of Pitbull’s ‘I Know You Want Me’. Even Alber Elbaz himself is put to the test in the video that accompanies the lush print campaign for stunning pieces from the collections.
Funny, playful and to a certain extent parodying its own lofty status, its success partly lies in the small details. Not only are these top models dancing in top luxury fashion, but they are doing so against the sumptuous backdrop of an upmarket and rather conservative period interior, the kinds of rooms inhabited by the notoriously buttoned-up Old Money rich. It’s almost as if the current campaign speaks directly to these faithful admirers of the brand, inviting them to join the new, younger fans in a fun world in which jumping up and down on the beds in a luxury hotel could be as fitting a place for a Lanvin garment as a decorous entry to an opera gala.