“Paris is very important to me. It’s where the soul of couture resides, and the story of this woman is fantastic,” Jarrar told WWD on Friday, referring to Jeanne Lanvin, who first set up her millinery workshop on Rue Boissy d’Anglas in 1889.
Jarrar said she has been given carte blanche to bring her creative vision to the house, and “I am very happy to come after Alber Elbaz, whom I respect enormously.”
Her appointment confirms an exclusive WWD report on March 8.
Jarrar, 45, said she would “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.
Asked about her signature house, Jarrar said she would “devote herself fully to the house of Lanvin.”
She could not be drawn further on the subject, but it is understood she intends to pause her signature label, while maintaining the couture appellation in perpetuity, should she wish to resume.
In an interview, Lanvin chief executive officer Michèle Huiban characterized Jarrar as a “natural” choice.
“She’s a very talented woman, and I’ve been following her career for some time,” she said. “She loves the house of Lanvin, our history and our ateliers, which are very important to her. She intends to work in the continuity of the house, with her own vision.”
Huiban cited “a lot of enthusiasm” within the company about Jarrar’s appointment and stressed that “the house is financially sound and has the means to ensure its development.”
She added that the designer’s “high standards and her mastery of cuts and fabrics” would bring “freshness and modernity.”
Known for her exacting silhouettes, Jarrar 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 pushed out of 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 biker jacket and she is also known for the cut of her trousers, peacoats and tuxedo jackets. Recently she has pushed herself to design evening gowns, typically streamlined numbers in crushed velvet, chiffon or satin.
Like Elbaz, who was known 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 long praised 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.
Renowned for her no-nonsense work ethic, Jeanne Lanvin built a lifestyle empire from scratch, segueing from hats to clothes for women, children and men, along with furs, cosmetics and sport clothes. Following her death in 1946, Lanvin’s daughter took over the business, which remained in family hands for several decades before undergoing several changes of ownership beginning in the late Eighties.
In 1990, it was sold to investors including cosmetics giant L’Oréal, which became the sole owner of the company in 1996.
Taiwanese businesswoman Shaw-Lan Wang bought Lanvin from L’Oréal in 2001, recruited Elbaz and gave 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.
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 own 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 design chops and ebullient personality. She will also be charged with helping to stem eroding sales momentum — 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 are believed to have fallen to around 200 million euros, or $218.5 million at current exchange, last year versus a peak of more than 250 million euros, or $273 million, 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 about 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 2016 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 to succeed Elbaz, including Simone Rocha, Marco de Vincenzo, Huishan Zhang and Erdem Moralioglu. Previous designers of Lanvin include Claude Montana, Eric Bergère, Dominique Morlotti, Ocimar Versolato and Cristina Ortiz.
Elbaz has yet to indicate his future intentions, which are said to include launching a signature fashion house.
Jarrar will only oversee the women’s product universe, 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. “I’ve always loved his work,” Jarrar said of Ossendrijver.