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A Fashionable Summer ~ Carven of Paris

Discussion in 'A Fashionable Summer 2005 (Asst. Designers)' started by noir_boudoir, Jul 13, 2005.

  1. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    <p align="center">
    <img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvencarbasic.jpg" width="580"></p><center>
    <p align="center">
    <table valign="middle" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="610"><tbody><tr><td valign="middle" width="305"><p align="center"><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvendesigns.jpg" border="2" width="295"><br><font size="-1"><b>P</b>hotograph from 'Women's Illustrated' Sept. 30th, 1950.
    'At home in the country, Carven is still working...' at Le Priorie du Breuil, in Normandy.</font>
    </p></td><td valign="middle" width="300"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2"><font size="+1">
    <b>"I don't like sophistication"</b></font><br>
    The words of Carmen de Tomasso, looking back on her career, in 1989, sound somewhat absurd coming from a Paris couturière who resided in a veritable treasure trove of Louis XVI&nbsp; furniture and rich tapestries. But in 1950, 'Carven' as she renamed herself, was something different.
    In 1947, Dior had reasserted the luxury of Paris design with the lavish New Look. Carven, who established her <i>maison</i> at the Rond Pont des Champs-Elysses in 1945 (having possibly first attempted to start her business in 1938), followed an altogether different, more modern tack.<br><b>above:</b> 'Carven at the wheel of her new Fiat Convertible sports car' 1950<br>

    </font></p></td></tr><tr><td valign="middle" width="290"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2">
    <b><font size="+1">'Paris began to talk...'</font></b>
    <font face="arial" size="2">Carmen de Tommaso was born in 1909 in Châtellerault France (north of Poitiers). She first trained in interior design and architecture at the école des Beaux-Arts. Her much-repeated story of how she decided to start designing began with her problem, at the height of five foot one inch, of finding clothes to fit; 'You'll never be elegant,' her mother told her.</font><font face="arial" size="2">
    Using her eye for proportion and ornamentation, trained further by her time at the Beaux-Arts, Carven began to create simple, slender designs which catered to and lengthened small figures. Not only that, but she worked
    in a new repertoire of sports and leisure wear that paralleled the work of contemporary American designers, such as Tina Leser and Claire McCardell.
    <td valign="middle" width="310"><p align="center"><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvendesignmodel.jpg" border="2" width="300"><br>
    </p><center><font size="-1">'In the workroom, Carven ponders thoughtfully over an important detail' <br>
    Woman's Illustrated 1950</center></td></tr><tr><td valign="middle" width="290"><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenhome.jpg" border="2" width="270"><br><font size="-1"><b>S</b>ainte Catherine, Patron Saint of Dressmakers, in the garden of Le Priorie de Breuil
    </td><td valign="middle" width="290"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2"><font size="+1">
    <b>The love of a 'Golden Age'</b></font></font><br>
    <font face="arial" size="2">Carven drew inspiration, like her transatlantic counterparts, from world travel, artistic motifs, and innovative visions of how to wear clothes. Yet she was also quickly admitted to the traditional Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture as an accepted designer.&nbsp; Her sampling of the world reflected French involvement in international affairs, from Tahiti to Africa and Indo-China.&nbsp; Her taste and flair became a prominent part of her appeal, marketed to an international audience as the 'breath of youth' (England) or 'a wardrobe for teen-agers' (America).&nbsp;<br>

    </font></p></td></tr><tr><td valign="middle" width="290"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2">
    Carven's exquisite taste and enviable life-style became the background of her designs and a means of promotion. Her country estate, <i>above</i>, where she travelled with her husband, Monsieur Mallet, featured in an early promotional pattern feature in a British magazine of 1950. Her luxurious salon, decorated with a connoisseur's zeal for collectable
    antiques, <i>right</i>, formed the background to a retrospective profile of 1989, in which Madame Carven commented, 'I must be surrounded by beauty.'<br>
    </span></font></font></p><font face="arial" size="2"><br>
    </font></td><td valign="middle" width="310"><p align="center"></p><center><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvensalon.jpg" border="2" width="300"><br><font size="-1">Carven's
    Avenue Foch mansion, decorated with eighteenth century treasures. Featured in 'Architectural Digest' of Sept. 1989; courtesy of Lizzie Bramlett.<br>
  2. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President


    you mentioned that she renamed herself "Carven" - does that correlate to a specific meaning in french or is that a family name? (maybe that is now knowable but i like trivia). And is she still alive today? (obviously she was in 89 as we know)

    Interesting that this is yet another designer with a crossover into either sportswear or a "fresh young and active look". (and also a well travelled designer!)

    And I always like designers who cater to short people lol

  3. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    Carmen was the name her father gave her, and she didn't think it suited her, so she changed one letter. I think there are a couple of explanations of why she chose 'v' (the initial of a favourite aunt, or something), but I'm not sure what is true. She might have just chosen something unusual and striking.

    As far as I know, she's still alive, although she retired in the early 90s. She personally donated some of her dresses to the Musee Galleria in about 2000 or 2002, and, as far as I know, her collection of antiques is not yet in the hands of the Louvre (another threatened donation, in her will). I'm not sure what health she's in now, though.

    And yes, you'll find there are a lot of similarities with the young American designers. And I've been wondering, while going through this material, who was pioneering what, when.

    I think it's worth taking into account the fact that Carven was doing something similar in Europe, in Parisian couture-mode, to the Californian/Hawaiian ready-to-wear industries. But more post-war, because of the Occupation.
  4. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    'page 2'

    <p align="center">
    <table valign="middle" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="610"><tbody><tr><td valign="middle" width="305"><p align="center"><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenmagriffe.jpg" border="2" width="295"><br><b><font size="-1">P</b>hotograph the Phaedon <i>Fashion Book</i> p. 453, copyright, Carven.<br><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/greenandwhitefabric.jpg" border="2" width="300"><br><font size="-1">Carven designs with her favourite green and white fabric. Woman's Illustrated 1950.<br>

    </p></td><td valign="middle" width="300"><p align="center"></p><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2"><font size="+1"><b>Green Stripes<br></b></font>
    Carven's early success was a fresh, green and white striped summer frock, which used both fabric and structure (pin-tucks and minute waist, <i>left</i>) to flatter a smaller figure. Named 'ma griffe', the design bequeathed its distinctive and new green and white colour scheme as a theme running through many of Carven's early collections. <br>
    In 1947 her collection included a green and white striped linen skirt 'draped back, as a theatre curtain might be,' revealing a painted 'backdrop' of a white linen underskirt hand painted with a Paris street scene. She also produced one-piece playsuits with green linen shorts, green and white striped bodice and contrasting red and white striped bolero. In 1949, she included in an 'African' collection a green and white gingham check frock with 'a trellis of green ricrac', and a terry cloth bath robe in green and white stripes, for the beach. <br>
    In 1950, Woman's Illustrated reported that even her salon had 'green and white striped curtains'.&nbsp; 'Green and white stripes play an important part in the House of Carven.&nbsp; Anything you purchase there - whether it be a perfume of her heavenly perfume, 'Ma Griffe,' or whether it be a frock or an accessory - all are wrapped in green and white striped wrappings. There again, unmistakably Carven'.<br>
    The use and persistence of this colour scheme illustrates not just Carven's personal preference, but her continuting talent for branding herself as a distinctive designer.
    </td></tr><tr><td valign="middle" width="290"><p align="center"><font face="arial" size="2"><font size="+1"><b>the magic touch...<br></b>
    <p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2">A report of 1947 described how Carven took to decorating her collection, both leisure and evening wear, with painted trompe l'oeil false drapes and scenes of 'country panoramas with cultivated fields, haystacks and a winding road'. Around a skirt hem was painted a border of black and white tiling, toped with a colonnade and views of a formal garden. <br>
    This collection playfully reflected her experience of French interior design, and responded to a new mood of frivolity and enjoyment in fashion.&nbsp; In the same year, the modesty skirts overlying her short nautical beach sets featured, 'a semi-detatched sail belonging to a painted boat on a painted sea'.&nbsp;</font></p>
    <td valign="middle" width="310"><p align="center"><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carven1950evedress.jpg" border="2" width="300"><br><center><font size="-1">What are the bets this dress was green?? From Carven's 1950 summer collection, reproduced in McDowell's Directory, 1984 p. 102, Jean-Loup Charmet. </center></td></tr><tr><td valign="middle" width="290"><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenpartydress.jpg" border="2" width="300"><br><b><font size="-1">A</b> party frock, transferred to New York from Carven's new collection, 1958 (New York Times Oct 8th)
    </td><td valign="middle" width="290"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2">
    <font size="+1"><b>A Global Success<br>
    </b></font> 'No other fashion house has travelled as much as hers.&nbsp; Since the war, with only two dressers
    and half a dozen mannequins, Carven has visited the rich shores of Portugal, colourful Brazil, touched down in both North and South America, seen the golden sands and tropical splendour of North Africa, peeped at the oriental mystery of Egypt.'
    A trip to Africa inspired Carven's spring 1949 collection and Paris show, reported in the New York Times: 'Carven's opening took the spectators to Africa, with mannikins stepping forth from a thatched hut. Mmme Carven brought back from a recent voyage a fund of ideas, novelties and fascinating printed cottons to harmonzies with sun-bronzed skins...'<br> Dresses carried embroidered 'natives on the warpath' brandishing shields, Moroccan cuff decoration, a navy linen frock featured straw patch pockets and Carven placed straw flower embroidery on the necklines of cocktail dresses. Clearly a woman after Louella Ballerino's heart...
    <br> Not only did Carven's imagination have global reach in design terms, but she became one of the most successful female leisure-wear or 'young' fashion designer in licensing and selling her work overseas, from East Asia to New York.
  5. ellenm

    ellenm Registered Guest

    That gorgeous dress that she called Ma Griffe (or was it the fabric)... there used to be a perfume by that name. Is it her perfume? What do those words mean in French?
  6. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    :hiya: Ellen!
    Yes, she launched the perfume very quickly, in about 1945 or 1946, and the green and white livery packaged that too, as the Woman's illustrated article mentions.

    It was relaunched much later... I think in the 90s? But it was the first of a very successful series of perfumes, including a men's cologne. She appeared to branch out very fast, very early. A lifestyle designer, almost.

    <img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/_tCarven%20005.jpg">
  7. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    Oops, I forgot to say, Ellen, it means 'my signature' in French, so a great double meaning for both a perfume and a key dress... and the colour scheme!

    page 3:

    <p align="center">
    <img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/lillyofthevalley.jpg"><center>
    <p align="center">
    <table valign="middle" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="610"><tbody><tr><td valign="middle" width="305"><p align="center"><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenlanterndesign.jpg" border="2" width="295"><br><font size="-1"><b>F</b>rom 'Women's Illustrated' Sept. 30th, 1950.
    </td><td valign="middle" width="300"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2"><font size="+1">
    <b>The Lantern Line</b></font>
    <br>Descriptions of Carven's early collections detail some decorative features she used to evoke exotic associations. This extensive promotion of 1950 shows how she used ethnic and global themes to shape the <i>line</i> of her designs. A pattern licensed for distribution to readers of 'Woman's Illustrated' provided the opportunity for an extensive promotion of Carmen and her aspirational lifestyle: <br>"Have you ever wondered how a designer finds the inspiration for a new line?... We don't know all the answers... but we do know that the call and lure of distant lands have inspired Carven to a certain extent. <br>This season, she says, she was dreaming of Asia ... Asia, to-day, whose dreams and traditions are threatened but whose treasures will always live in the hearts of all thinking people... Carven is determined that the richness and colourful beauty of Asia shall never die.' <br>And so - she has created the 'Lantern Line.' With its puffed shoulders, narrow hipline and sudden flaring into fullness under the knee, it is reminiscent of a Chinese lantern <br>
    </font></p></td></tr><tr><td valign="middle" width="290"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2">Her evening clothes, too, have the faint but haunting memory of the Orient. Gold shines in small flowers, and together with brilliant coloured embroideries, they show a decided Persian and Chinese inspiration...</font></p>
    </td><td valign="middle" width="290"><p align="center"><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenatwork.jpg" width=290 border=2><font size="-1"><br>Carven at work, 1958 (from the New York Times)</td></tr></tbody></table><p align="center"><center><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenlanternsketch.jpg" border="2" width="540">
    <p align="center"><center>
    <table valign="middle" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="610"><tbody><tr>
    <td valign="middle" width="310"><center><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="center"><font face="arial" size="2">
    <b><font size="+1"> Post Office - Overseas Telegram</font></b> <br>" WOMANS ILLUSTRATED FLEETWAY HOUSE FARRINGDOM ST LONDON EC4 -<br> SIMPLY DELIGHTED WITH CARVEN FROCK FITS BEAUTIFULLY AND SO EASY TO MAKE MANY THANKS - MARIE CLAUDE DUBOIS<br></font></p></td><td valign="middle" width="290"> <p align="center"><center><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenlanterpattern.jpg" border="2" width="250"></center></td></tr><tr><td valign="middle" width="310"><p align="center"><center><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenlanternsteps.jpg" border="2" width="280">
    </center></td><td valign="middle" width="290"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2">
    Woman's Illustrated gave a colourful account of Carven's early years and the reasons for her success:<br>
    'In the broiling Indian Summers of those days Carven began to create the most adorable Summer frocks.&nbsp; Paris began to talk, smart women everywhere went to Carven and emerged smarter still.<br> And yet that does not mean the taller woman is unable to buy anything from the House of Carven.&nbsp; Indeed, just the opposite... It is a pleasure to be dressed by Carven...<br> For it is her job to design the right, the perfect, clothes for every woman to match her own individual personality, to pay a compliment to her beauty, enhance her loveliest features and disguise those of which she is not so proud. <br>
    There, we think, lies the secret of her success.&nbsp; She gives women the kind of clothes they want to wear, and in doing so has created a style which is entirely her own....
    </font></p></td></tr><tr><td valign="middle" width="290"><p style="line-height: 180%;" align="left"><font face="arial" size="2">'There is no need for a trademark, no need for a name... her beautiful clothes can be recognized by the sheer skill and simplicity of line and fastidious attention to detail that are hers alone.... Madame Carven has designed a frock for you. 'Lily of the Valley' she has called it. For that dainty white flower instinctively reminds one of youth and beauty, laughter and gaity... This, then, is a frock for youth! Simply cut... it emphasises the clean, supple lines of the young girl... Its subtle rightness and air of distinction make this a frock in a million - a frock designed to make its wearer more beautiful, more desirable and, above all, more feminine."</font><font face="arial" size="2"><br> An accompanying, jaunty self-fabric cloth cap, <i>right</i>, featured in Carven's early 'Ma Griffe' dress too.</td><td valign="middle" width="310"><p align="center"><center><img src="http://archive.noirboudoir.com/lives/carvenlantern.jpg" border="2" width="300"><font size="-1"><br><b>P</b>hotographed in Carven's beautiful Paris salon is 'Lily of the Valley' - her frock for you.
  8. "Ma Griffe" translated means my claw. Would that be her stamp?

    I, too, love that pin tucked gown. This is so interesting.

    I can tell you that she would have been 96 because this is same year my father was born.
  9. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    <b>"signature"</b> Linda!

    It can also mean a clothing label, I think.

    My dictionary says 'claw' is griffe in jewellery, which I'm a bit confused by. The verb 'griffer' means to scratch, which makes more sense, both with claw and quill & ink.
  10. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    I forgot how much a real marketing tool patterns were. We may think she is "giving away her designs" but I am sure that giving a sample like that of an interpretation that the average woman who sewed at home could benefit from actually increased the demand for her items. There was not the mass "right into your living room" television marketing like there is today so i supposed a tactile element was very beneficial.
  11. Hattysattic

    Hattysattic VFG Secretary

    wow, excellent job again lin! i love her green and white striped theme continuing into presentation etc... oh, and her fiat convertible, natch... what a creative gal!
  12. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    Its interesting that someone who was so well marketed as far as licensing remains so obscure to us today.

    I just found this portrait of her in her later years. I am sure you already have it/plan to show us something similar later.

    Madame Carven in her later years

    It definitely personifies her passion for french decor and antiques.
  13. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    Oh, that's a great shot - I've got something of her at the same age to show, courtesy of Lizzie.

    You know, I think her worldwide reputation is far more long-lasting than a lot of the mid-century American designers doing the same thing. But then, what she was doing doesn't fit into the development of national design in the same way that, say, the American sportswear designers do, so her reputation <i> in America</i> is not so prominent.

    She's been a long-lived specialist, a shrewd self-marketer, in certain kinds of couture/design, which had quite a mileage in certain parts of the world (eg Japan). But on the other hand, it didn't make her iconic, or completely identified with one phase of fashion.

    more soon... L
  14. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    This is great, Lin. Interesting that she did have so much coverage by the NY Times, as I've found NO mention of her at all in my late 40s and 50s <I>Vogue</i> and <I>Bazaar</i> magazines. And the only ad I found was one for the perfume.

    I also found it interesting that her big African-inspired collection was 1949, the same year as Leser's "Round-the-world" collection.
  15. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    yes, and she did an extensive Tahitian beachwear collection the following year, in 1950 - including doing a little booklet on how many different ways you could wear your pareo...

    Her collections were covered as significant Paris trends (couture only) in the reports I've cited.

    It's only in the late 50s and early 60s that she appears on the ready-to-wear horizon, and that's when imported garments (rather than ideas and trends) are mentioned.

    This is something I need everyone's help on. I'm aware of David Crystal, but know little about him/them. It was David Crystal who was licensed to produce Carven dresses in the US to the orders of department stores (who selected them direct at shows).

    I'll put a little more info about this up next.
  16. bartondoll

    bartondoll Guest

    I'm late to this workshop today and Lin, want to say how much I've enjoyed reading and learning about this designer. Similar to Louella
    Ballerino, this is another one that I knew nothing about. I was familiar with her Ma Griffe perfume, but not the background info on it.

    Fascinating stuff here!

  17. Patentleathershoes

    Patentleathershoes VFG Veteran VFG Past President

    David Crystal to me is a tangled web...and then you get Lacoste and Izod and other companies mixed up there too and the line was blurred and I haveonly recently become unconfused so I am sorry to say that I am not the one to explain David Crystal.

    Looking forward to that part, though...
  18. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    I've been meaning to rewrite that David Crystal bio, and add one to Izod, so I'll put that on the list of TTD for tomorrow! Basicly, David Crystal was the parent company, and they held the rights to use other labels in the US, including Lacoste and Izod. At the same time, they also did adaptations of couturier fashions. I know they did a Dior line at one time in the 50s, but was not aware of the Craven connection.

    This was a common practice. Davidow did Chanel suits in the US. They used the Chanel fabrics, but the designs were ready-to-wear and much cheaper than a Chanel couturier suit. They were even featured in a 1960 <I>Vogue</i> I have as "Chanel" suits, and by looking at the pictures, you'd thing think were Chanel suits. I have one from about 1961 or 2. The label, unfortunately, just reads "Davidow." I'd be interested to know if the Craven name is on the Crystal garments, because it's my understanding that their is a Dior for Crystal label.
  19. noir_boudoir

    noir_boudoir Registered Guest

    Yes, the licensed Dior designs made by other manufacturers of the 50s were, as far as I'm aware, all marked as such.

    Whereas, like Davidow, I've heard (I think from Liz?) that Wallis Shops in the UK produced Chanel suits, but again without an identifying label.

    This is quite interesting, as it has made me completely reassess that Marcel Fenez Carven dress for which the label is on the resource. I now believe it's the other way around.

    Marcel Fenez was not the pret-a-porter designer deputised to work for Carven. Fenez was *always* a manufacturing firm, a la David Crystal (as it was later, too, when Klein took over). So 'Carven by Marcel Fenez' means a Carven design, produced by Marcel Fenez in London.

    This suggests we might be looking for something similarly marked from Crystal, since our other examples (Dior, Chanel) were consistent about their identification.

    I'll put the final chapter up in a few minutes.
  20. fuzzylizzie

    fuzzylizzie Alumni

    Yes, I believe you must be correct on this.

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