Lanvin, the historic French fashion house at the heart of Parisian chic, has appointed an expert in “e-couture” as its new creative director in an attempt to connect with a new generation.
The company’s owner, the Taiwanese media magnate Shaw-Lan Wang, announced on Tuesday that Olivier Lapidus would take up the role, days after it was confirmed that Bouchra Jarrar would be leaving it after just 16 months. Lapidus’s first collection for Lanvin will be shown in Paris in October.
Lapidus is a relative unknown in the industry, even for the most seasoned fashion insiders. He was creative director at Balmain Homme in 1985, and is the son of Ted Lapidus, who pioneered unisex clothes and designed clothes worn by the Beatles and Françoise Hardy. Olivier recently designed the interiors of the four-star Hotel Félicien in Paris, and furniture and mattresses with the Novative brand.
Lapidus, 59, also runs his own label, Creation Olivier Lapidus, which has been described as an e-couture brand. It creates ornate custom-made beaded dresses which are ready in 12 weeks, and can be ordered on a hotline after watching a runway show online. Lapidus’s aesthetic is a straightforward, established take on evening wear – satin, sequin and strapless dresses dominate. His interest in technology – from manufacturing to communication – has been hailed as a way to relaunch Lanvin for an audience of digital natives. It has also been suggested that the house may start to show couture again.
According to The Business of Fashion, Lapidus has been charged with making 128-year-old Lanvin into “a French Michael Kors”. This implies that price points will decrease and that the aesthetic will become more commercial in an attempt to bring more customers to the brand. Kors is built on an easy wearable look that prioritises daywear. Lanvin, by contrast, has traditionally worked with a chic cocktail-hour look. While revenues at Kors declined 3.2% during 2016, the American brand is still a success story of the modern era, making £1.08bn that year. Lanvin, by contrast, had a 23% drop in revenue in the same period, to £143m.
Though fashion insiders may be surprised to see an outsider take on such a historic name, Shaw-Lan Wang is confident. “His broad understanding of the universe of this house, of the world of fashion and design and his resolutely modern approach will bring Lanvin towards new horizons,” she said.
“With nearly 130 years of history, Lanvin is the oldest French couture house,” Lapidus said. “To ensure its longevity is an immense task and an exciting challenge.”
The recent history of Lanvin has been turbulent. Alber Elbaz, who was creative director for 14 years before he left in 2015, had brought Jeanne Lanvin’s sleepy house into the modern era with an aesthetic that was fun, glamorous and worn by everyone from Natalie Portman to Meryl Streep. But he left in a storm of controversy, saying his departure was “the decision of the company’s majority shareholder”. This provoked anger within the industry and even sparked protests in the Lanvin workroom, where Elbaz’s former team reportedly chanted his name.
In her brief spell, Jarrar designed two collections, both full of the kind of conservative glamour that appeals to a woman who has black tie events in her diary. While 16 months is hardly time to establish an aesthetic, Jarrar failed to pick up buzz – essential for a new designer bringing the spotlight back on an established brand.
Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia, appointed in 2015, is an example of this working well – there is now such a frenzy around Balenciaga that fans recently bought branded lighters at lifestyle store Colette for €10 (£8) a piece. Lanvin will be hoping for something of a Gvasalia effect from Lapidus come October.
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