Names rumored under consideration to succeed Jarrar include Olivier Lapidus, who recently launched what he is billing as the world’s first web-based couture house, and Christelle Kocher, creative director at both Koché and featherer Lemarié, who has won plaudits for her blend of streetwear and couture motifs.
Lanvin confirmed the latest designer exit at the company in a statement Thursday. “Lanvin and Bouchra Jarrar have mutually decided to put an end to their collaboration. This decision is effective as of today,” it said.
“Madame Wang wishes to thank Bouchra Jarrar, who since her arrival brought her talent to serve the company. Bouchra Jarrar thanks Madame Wang for her trust. She wishes most particularly to acknowledge the work of the teams with whom she collaborated to express creativity and French know-how. Bouchra Jarrar will now concentrate on new projects.”
“It’s been an honor to work for the oldest haute couture house, and I have a great admiration for Jeanne Lanvin, the founder,” Jarrar told WWD in a statement. “A chapter is coming to an end, another one will come. Creation is my engine.”
Lanvin’s business has been challenged of late as it tries to negotiate both the general issues facing the luxury sector today and internal woes. The company, founded by Jeanne Lanvin in 1889 and whose principal owner is Taiwan-based media magnate Shaw-Lan Wang, has seen its sales erode for several years after peaking at more than 250 million euros in 2012, according to sources. Last year, the house posted its first loss in more than a decade.
Rumors had swirled for some time about friction between Jarrar and chief executive officer Michèle Huiban, thought to have been at loggerheads almost from the start. In retrospect, comments the designer made last week at a ceremony at which she was promoted to Officer of the Order of the Arts and Letters now ring as prescient, suggesting a desire to put negativity behind her. “Nurturing positivity is all that interests me. I don’t care about anything else,” Jarrar said.
She went on to reference her path to fashion: “Yes, I was a slightly inhibited young girl. But then I learned, I went to school, I grew up and I crossed through realms where I left my imprint, successful endeavors.”
Jarrar is said to have been frustrated by the absence of a clearly articulated strategy for the house and a corresponding lack of investment in it — concerns similar to those of her predecessor Alber Elbaz toward the end of his tenure.
While Elbaz was also thought to have sparred with Huiban, his relationship with Wang declined when he started pressuring her to sell her majority stake in the interests of growing the company. His departure was a stormy one, with company workers demonstrating in support of Elbaz and the firm’s works council taking management to court.
Wang has remained steadfast in her refusal to relinquish that stake, despite apparently interested buyers. Minority owner Ralph Bartel, who holds a 25 percent stake, is reportedly interested in upping his share. And in January, WWD reported that the Qatar-based Mayhoola Group, owner of Valentino, Balmain and Pal Zileri, was speaking with Wang, in a redux of earlier talks last year, when her asking price, in the neighborhood of 500 million euros, was deemed too steep by the investment fund. The most recent negotiations have also gone nowhere, with Wang determined to retain her majority stake even as the value of the business has declined over the last several years.
Jarrar arrived at Lanvin six years after establishing her own couture house, to which she later added ready-to-wear. Prior to that, she was a well-known, behind-the-scenes figure in Paris fashion, as studio director at Nicolas Ghesquière’s Balenciaga and couture head of design at Christian Lacroix. She opened her own house only after careful consideration, and closed it upon signing with Lanvin.
Her vision of couture, ultimately translated to rtw, was of ultra chic, wearable clothes with an emphasis on daywear built on smart, lean precision tailoring. Her modernist men’s wear vibe — perfecto jacket atop impeccably cut trousers — felt very new in the haute sphere, even as she integrated it with lovely feminine flourishes. While transferring that approach to Lanvin, Jarrar upped the feminine side of the equation.
Still, it was a look very different from that which Elbaz forged for the house, one of soigne, languid glamour. His point of view became Lanvin’s aesthetic baseline; the reality is that, while Jeanne Lanvin remains an important figure in fashion history, her aesthetic legacy had long since receded from significant consumer awareness.
Whether the next designer will be encouraged to embrace the Lanvin archive of the Elbaz era remains to be seen. So, too, does how the house will handle the upcoming spring 2018 collection season.