why lanvin’s new appointment is a victory for women in fashion

Bouchra Jarrar will take the reigns at a house founded by one of fashion’s most important women, Jeanne Lanvin. It’s a huge step for gender equality among the industry’s most storied luxury houses, which are overwhelmingly male-led.

by Emily Manning
11 March 2016, 7:05pm

Photography Mitchell Sams

Fashion is still in the midst of a high stakes game of musical chairs, but one important seat has officially been taken. Earlier today, Lanvin confirmed that French couturier Bouchra Jarrar would succeed the legendary Alber Elbaz as its new artistic director of womenswear. Prior to founding her eponymous, minimalist-leaning brand in 2010, Jarrar started her career under Jean Paul Gaultier before becoming Nicolas Ghesquière's studio director at Balenciaga and Christian Lacroix's head of couture design.

Jarrar's appointment is exciting for many reasons, her masterful vision of everyday elegance chief among them. But there's one reason in particular her future tenure already seems a breath of fresh air for fashion: she's one of the very few women to assume a top creative director position -- and at one of the even fewer storied luxury houses built by a woman, Jeanne Lanvin. "Bouchra seemed a natural for our house, founded by a woman," the brand's chief executive, Michèle Huiban, told The New York Times' Chief Fashion Critic Vanessa Friedman. "I felt an immediate and very true connection when we met."

In the wake of Kris Van Assche's decision to put the brakes on his eponymous label to concentrate on designing for Dior Homme, Friedman reports that Jarrar similarly plans to shutter her own brand to "devote herself to Lanvin." "It was her choice. She decided she wanted a bigger playing field," notes Huiban. Though fans of the impeccable tailoring she's honed over the past six years might be disappointed to learn of the rising independent label's closure, they should celebrate the fact that Jarrar's unrestrained commitment to batting in the big leagues is a huge step for women in fashion.

As we noted after Raf Simons' departure from Dior in October, there are very few women occupying positions in fashion's highest ranks. Though women are typically well represented in design studios and couture ateliers (think of Florence Chehet and Monique Bailly, the two highly skilled premieres who starred in Dior and I), they often haven't been presented with the same opportunities to lead these longstanding luxury houses as their male colleagues. As one might expect, intersectionality in fashion design is far poorer. Despite the successes of fellow female power players including Sacai's Chitose Abe, Kenzo's Carol Lim, and the inimitable Rei Kawakubo, women of color are even less well-represented in top design positions than their white contemporaries. It's largely the same for queer women; save Jil Sander, Jenna Lyons, or Chromat's Becca McCharen, it's difficult to think of out female designers in an industry otherwise dominated by queer men.

Though she has firmly denied her departure from Céline, many are still speculating that Phoebe Philo will in fact decamp to Alaïa or even to fashion's most coveted house (one founded by another truly revolutionary woman) Chanel. No matter where the British iconoclast heads next, we should celebrate Jarrar's victory as an exciting new chapter for gender equality in the industry. "In an internal memo seen by The New York Times," Friedman reports, "Ms. Jarrar said: 'My wish is to bring to Lanvin harmony and coherence of a world for women, a world of our time. I rejoice in being part of this beautiful chapter in the life of the house with all its teams.'"


Text Emily Manning
Photography Mitchell Sams

bouchra jarrar
women in fashion