Lanvin: Fantasy explorers and mystic pilgrims
If at first you don’t succeed try again. Lanvin introduced its fourth designer in as many years this morning in Paris. And its latest pick, Bruno Sialelli, made a sensational debut for France’s oldest couture house inside the ancient Cluny Museum.
After several false starts, this collection, and show, was a significant fashion statement – playing on much of the DNA of Lanvin but making it very much on Sialelli’s own folkloric and mystical terms. A co-ed show staged flawlessly inside the storied museum, built inside an ancient abbey, itself constructed on an ancient Roman baths.
A Frenchman of Italian origin, Sialelli previously had done stints at Paco Rabanne and Loewe, the latter for menswear. There were tiny hints of his prior houses, but very tiny. Throughout he cut with abandon; courageously mixing up fabrics: woolen knit midriffs, collars and breast-plates; rough edged tartans; classy silks and bold prints – made of blown up scripts from children’s books like St George and the Dragon. He even used the text on great boots and handbags. Making the whole mood unexpected, naïve yet somehow very sophisticated.
For guys he showed Breton sailors shirts finished with Aran sweaters; duffle coats cut into capes; heraldic print silk tunics, topped with knit cowls; or classy chesterfield coats, from whose sleeves peeped the heraldic script.
“I looked deep into the archives for inspiration. There I discovered that Jeanne Lanvin was an explorer – to Eastern Europe or the Middle East, picking up lots of textiles, folklore and always creating emotion. But she was also a proper lifestyle woman, doing men’s women’s and even furniture. So, I wanted explorer Aztecs; but also
Jean Genet, parts of Brittany, Brest and the beauty of French countryside,” explained Sialelli, who named the collection Mystic Pilgrims. Adding that he chose Cluny “as it's a magical time capsule.”
In one bravura passage, he took a multi-head print and used it in several beautiful dresses, one trimmed with shards of gold metal; a taut men’s skinny top; a silken handbag and even a beautiful set of pajamas.
Sialelli’s palette was optimistic – baby blue, washed-out plaid, blushing pink. His casting was judicious -- cool unknowns and supes like Gigi Hadid or Kaia Gerber; a perfectly judged staging of plain wood benches and risers from La Mode en Images; and a great soundtrack – ranging from Italian composer Nino Rota to Neil Young’s Heart of Gold. The total result was a fashion moment.
“Bruno is enormously skilled and has a world view. Plus, he has experience and talent in women’s, menswear and accessories. He’s a leader and he is young. And, I couldn’t really recycle another well-known name,” beamed Jean-Philippe Hecquet who was named CEO of Lanvin in August 2018, months after the house was acquired by Chinese investor Fosun Fashion Group.
Whoever said the Chinese couldn’t manage a great luxury brand, now should be quiet. Fosun chose a savvy senior executive; who had the guts to select an unknown young designer; and the result was a great debut in Paris’ most famous ruin.
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