Bouchra Jarrar is a dark-haired, slightly built Frenchwoman whose English is perhaps as bad as my abysmal French. I met her in June last year; I've attended her haute couture shows and been impressed by her refined, well-defined aesthetic, her painstaking handiwork and her sense of femininity. I came away from the meeting a little in love with her – with her passion, her quiet certainty in her taste and her steely determination to carve out a name for herself in the tricky Paris fashion landscape.
It's worked. She's the newly appointed creative director of the house of Lanvin, replacing the much-loved Alber Elbaz, who was unexpectedly and unceremoniously fired last October. Jarrar has shuttered her eponymous line (which also sold ready-to-wear). I emailed my congratulations; Jarrar said she was happy to take on the “great mission” of Lanvin.
It is something of a mission – to many an unenviable one. Elbaz was beloved by the fashion industry. He made women feel elegant, beautiful, often especially slender. His clothes were weightless, without corseted underpinnings or restriction. He designed like a woman rather than a man, putting a primacy on the feel of clothes over the look. A fitting successor to Jeanne Lanvin. A tough act to follow.
Elbaz's work was remarkable in that it evoked emotion – I remember being at a Lanvin show where the audience mounted their chairs and roared approval. But at the autumn/winter 2016 collection shown earlier this month, the focus wasn't on the designer – or lack thereof – but on the clothes. “Tacky, drab, badly fitted clothes,” spat Robin Givhan of The Washington Post. “You couldn't always tell if they were cut for ease or just ill-fitting,” said Bridget Foley of Women's Wear Daily. “If they looked any sort of way, it was average,” was the level-headed summary of critic Cathy Horyn.
The Bouchra Jarrar news has pushed aside those lacklustre reviews and focused attention on the new designer. Hers is a rare appointment that offers not only a suitable successor to Elbaz but engenders enthusiasm and affection rather than acrimony. Clever. Let's see what she comes up with in June, and in her resort collection.
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