PARIS — Bouchra Jarrar has been named artistic director of women’s collections at Lanvin. She starts on Monday and is expected to unveil her first collection here this fall for the spring 2017 season.
This confirms a WWD report on March 8 that the seasoned talent was on the way to become Lanvin’s new designer, succeeding Alber Elbaz at the storied fashion house — and catapulting her fashion career.
“Her timeless style is in keeping with the style and values of our company,” said Lanvin chief executive officer Michèle Huiban. “Her talent, her high standards and her mastery of cuts and fabrics will bring a breath of freshness and modernity into the house, while respecting its soul as the oldest Paris couture house, a symbol of French elegance.”
Jarrar, 45, said her intention is to “bring to Lanvin the harmony and consistency of a fashion designed for women, a fashion of our time.”
A petite, self-assured woman whose dark eyes stare out from behind a curtain of extra-long bangs, Jarrar launched her signature house in 2010 after 15 years of behind-the-scenes toil, most notably as studio director at Nicolas Ghesquière’s Balenciaga and head of couture design for Christian Lacroix. She earned the official haute couture appellation in 2013.
She had recently indicated she was open to collaborations with other brands, having signed on last month to do a high jewelry collection for Mauboussin, debuting in July.
“Joining Lanvin satisfies my desire to create and express myself in a space of larger expression,” Jarrar said.
Known for her exacting silhouettes, she has accrued a cultlike following for her streamlined sportswear, and takes an old-school approach to fashion, putting quality and technical finesse ahead of razzmatazz.
She certainly places more of an emphasis on daywear than Elbaz, who was ousted from the house last October after a stellar 14-year tenure, during which he made Lanvin synonymous with soigné cocktail dresses with frayed edges, or festooned with grosgrain ribbons.
Among Jarrar’s fetish items is the perfecto jacket, and she is also known for the cut of her trousers, peacoats and tuxedo jackets. Recently, she has pushed herself to include evening gowns in crushed velvet or satin.
Like Elbaz, prized for his draping ability and seamless garments, Jarrar is also a very hands-on designer, developing her own tweed fabrics and fitting tailored pieces to the millimeter. For her couture collections, she frequently collaborates with specialty ateliers including Lesage for elaborate embroideries involving crystals and feathers.
Born in Cannes, France, Jarrar has expressed an admiration for the approach of couturiers in the Fifties and Sixties such as Cristóbal Balenciaga and Gabrielle Chanel, who exalted women with their pristine and sculptural designs.
After graduating from Paris’ Duperré School of Applied Arts in 1994, Jarrar worked on Jean Paul Gaultier’s licensed jewelry collection for two years before arriving at Balenciaga under Josephus Thimister.
When Ghesquière took the creative helm, she served as his studio director until 2006, helping to create ready-to-wear collections that approached couture. She logged a brief stint at Jean-Louis Scherrer and then, eager to delve deeper into high-fashion techniques, joined Lacroix in 2008 as couture head of design.
Lacroix, who exited his namesake house in 2009 when it shrunk to a licensing operation, encouraged her to establish her name and house.
Last year, Mode et Finance, the French venture capital firm managed by Bpifrance, made a minority investment in Jarrar’s business, with the designer holding 74 percent. Mode et Finance also has a stake in Lemaire and has made investments in Yiqing Yin, Each x Other, Ami, Nicolas Andreas Taralis and other brands.
At Lanvin, Jarrar will need to regalvanize a house built around Elbaz’s vision and ebullient personality.
She will also be charged with helping to stem sliding sales — and make headway in the lucrative handbags business.
While Elbaz received acclaim for his runway designs, the house has struggled to find success with leather goods, and compete against larger, more well-funded rivals.
The company’s consolidated sales have been eroding, expected to have fallen to around 200 million euros versus a peak of more than 250 million euros only a few years ago, according to sources.
Lanvin’s works council contested the ouster of Elbaz, concerned about the impact on the company’s economic and social welfare, and faced off against management at the Tribunal de Grande Instance last December.
The court was told that Lanvin’s profits declined from 11.9 million euros, or $15.3 million, in 2012 to 5.7 million euros, or $7.5 million, in 2013 and 2.9 million euros, or $3.9 million, in 2014.
The brand — which marked its 125th anniversary in 2014 — is dependent on its wholesale partners, which account for approximately 70 percent of revenues, with only about 30 percent of sales streaming in from direct retail.
Following Elbaz’s exit, Lanvin relied on a studio helmed by Chemena Kamali and Lucio Finale to realize its pre-fall and fall collections. Its runway show during Paris Fashion Week received lackluster reviews.
Kamali had recently joined Lanvin as design director for women’s rtw from Chloé, while Finale had been promoted to creative director of women’s bags and shoes after one year as its head designer of women’s bags.
It is understood management considered a range of young and talents for the plum post, including Simone Rocha, Huishan Zhang and Erdem Moralioglu.
Taiwanese entrepreneur Shaw-Lan Wang bought Lanvin from L’Oréal in 2001, recruited Elbaz and left him a free hand to reinvent the business with chic cocktail dresses, chunky costume jewelry, ballerina flats, dressy sneakers and modernist men’s wear.
His fashion shows — typically with dramatic lighting, pounding techno and carnival refreshments — ultimately became one of the highlights of Paris Fashion Week.
Elbaz has yet to indicate his future intentions, which are said to include launching a signature fashion house.
Founder Jeanne Lanvin set up her first millinery workshop on Rue Boissy d’Anglas in 1889.
Previous designers of Lanvin include Claude Montana, Eric Bergère, Dominique Morlotti, Ocimar Versolato and Cristina Ortiz.
Jarrar will only oversee women’s collection, unlike Elbaz, who also had oversight of the men’s department.
Sources said men’s designer Lucas Ossendrijver is in contract talks and seeking to secure autonomy for his department, echoing the set-up at Dior and Louis Vuitton, which have long had separate creative chiefs for men’s and women’s.
Elbaz tapped Ossendrijver in 2005 from Dior Homme to rejuvenate Lanvin men’s wear, and the Dutchman echoed his use of couture fabrics and designs etched with industrial detailing.