Bouchra Jarrar closed her own label to accept the creative directorship at Lanvin last year, and has done her research on the woman who founded the house, unearthing the fact that Jeanne Lanvin predated Coco Chanel and all the other female couturiers of the ’20s and ’30s. “She made menswear and sportswear before she did women’s,” Jarrar said in a preview. That’s the gem of a fact she’s clearly been turning over in her mind, because Jarrar is innately a tailor for women. Among appreciative followers, she’s known for her meticulous hand—a way of cutting and fitting pantsuits, biker jackets, shirts, and trenches that is incredibly Parisian, rigorous but sensual at the same time.
She has brought those signatures to Lanvin, and her new start was ambitiously staged in the gilded, chandeliered hall of the Hôtel de Ville because, as Jarrar put it, “It’s at the heart of Paris!” Her opener was a fluid silhouette of an oyster charmeuse pantsuit with a long djellaba-like striped chiffon shirt floating beneath it—perhaps the subtlest of nods to her own heritage as a girl with Moroccan heritage who grew up in the South of France. All eyes were on how far she would integrate or extend the work of Lanvin’s former creative director Alber Elbaz. He, after all, was the one who established Lanvin as a label with a dual reputation for draped dresses and madly intense embellishment.
Jarrar can drape, too. She cut her teeth working for Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and then at Christian Lacroix. She’s a more reserved character than her predecessor, but she can drape a great silk velvet halter-neck top and whip a black organza minidress out of a single piece of fabric if she feels like it. More interestingly, the resources at Lanvin have brought out a penchant for jewelry in her—gold knots of chain mail and crystal as choker necklaces, diamanté strands dripping over hands, and long woven ribbons of gold thread that filled in the plunging necklines and sparkled beneath evening jackets.
It’s the kind of jewelry women who don’t like formal, traditional jewelry ought to gravitate toward. As it turned out, Jeanne Lanvin was already on that path in 1925, when she designed a silver bugle-beaded tie-shaped fabric necklace for women. Jarrar has brought the piece back—and it’s all the Lanvin woman will need to feel “dressed” for evening, in the comfort of her tuxedo suit. Whether there’s a woman who will accept Jarrar’s totally sheer, gauzy lace-trimmed black dresses as event- or eveningwear is a whole other matter. She probably needs to work more on figuring out what a new Lanvin dress means to a modern woman, but she has plenty of time for that. I’m excited to see what comes next.