Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Observations on Art 5.7

Madame Jeanne Lanvin, 1937
You might begin to wonder why a post about a fragrance gets the art heading. One reason is I have never had a fashion heading and I'm not about to start now. The other is that there is a bit of a history lesson ahead. I could even argue that fragrance is as much an art as any other just art for the sense of smell instead of sight but I'm not going to. Artists tend to agree that anything an artist calls art is in fact art but art historians get picky about it, I fall in between the two, but that's a totally different thought.

The fragrance is called Me and was created by the artistic director and head designer of Lanvin in Paris, Moroccan born Alber Elbaz. For years I've had a habit of wearing a men's cologne from Ralph Lauren so it take something special to intrigue me. In this case it was the main tone (highly technical term) which in Me comes from the zest of sparkling blueberries.

The history lesson comes in when you start to look at Lanvin itself. Founded by Madame Jeanne Lanvin in 1889 Lanvin is the oldest fashion house in Paris. Madame Lanvin was heavily influenced by art and the walls of her Paris apartment were covered with works by Edgar Degas, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Eugène Boudin, and Edouard Vuillard.

During a trip to Florence, Italy Lanvin saw a fresco by Fra Angelico, an Early Italian Renaissance painter, in which he used the shade of blue now known as quattrocento. The word quattrocento comes from the Italian word for 1400 and refers to the art and culture of 15th century Italy. Lanvin developed her own variation of quattrocento blue, now known as Lanvin Blue, that became the signature color of her fashion house and the Coke of color. To this day Lanvin blue's formula is secret and since 1923 has only been manufactured in Lanvin's own dye factories in France.

In the review the designer Alber Elbaz describes the woman he thinks would wear his fragrance. "She is, or would like to be, a Parisian, because our house is so evocative of France's capital and because the city is so synonymous with sensuality and elegance."

Blueberries and Paris,  yes I was intrigued and maybe now you understand why.

*There is a good selection of quattrocento art work on The Metropolitan Museum of Art's art history timeline. Also the Met's Costume Institute has a large collection of vintage Lanvin designs. And some trivia, in January 2010 the French postal system, Le Post, issued limited edition Lanvin stamps.