In 1889, couturière Jeanne Lanvin (1867-1946) founded her eponymous fashion house at the corner of rue Boissy d’Anglas and rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris. The haute-couture grande dame was an arbiter of some of the most distinctive womenswear trends of the early 20th century, including the full-skirted robe de style gown, and the flapper-style chemise dress. For this year’s 125th anniversary of the venerable maison (and the oldest French fashion house still in existence), we engaged Lanvin’s current creative director, Alber Elbaz, in a séance of sorts. The House of Lanvin takes its history very seriously (they’ve maintained Jeanne Lanvin’s original offices as well as a vast archive, including gouaches painted by her), so Elbaz had little difficulty conjuring the essence of Madame Lanvin. We, of course, summoned Andy.
ANDY WARHOL: What was your first job?
JEANNE LANVIN: I worked for a milliner when I was 13, delivering hats to clients. When I was 16, I became an apprentice milliner for Maison Félix at 15 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the current address for Lanvin menswear. That’s where I designed my first hats. And by 1885, when I was 18, I set up my own millinery workshop.
WARHOL: Were you up late last night?
JEANNE LANVIN: I often worked late, but if I went out, it might have been to attend a play or an operetta at the Théâtre Daunou, the theater I decorated with my collaborator, the art deco designer Armand-Albert Rateau, in 1921.
WARHOL: What’s your favorite color, now?
LANVIN: Lanvin blue, of course, a color I discovered during a trip to Florence in the early ’20s. I could not stop staring at the color in a Fra Angelico fresco, which I admired until my neck ached.
WARHOL: What do you wear?
LANVIN: I always wore black-a jacket and a skirt—with a pearl necklace and my favorite Cartier earrings.
WARHOL: Do you have a beauty secret?
LANVIN: A drop of Arpège on the neck. It’s the fragrance created by perfumer André Fraysse for Lanvin in 1927. My daughter, Marie-Blanche, named it.
WARHOL: What will smart women be wearing this spring?
LANVIN: As you know, I’m partial to black silk with metallic touches.
WARHOL: Are you collecting art?
LANVIN: I collected Renoir paintings, as well as Vuillard, Picasso, Degas, and Boudin.
WARHOL: What are you reading right now?
LANVIN: I’m especially fond of the writing of Louise de Vilmorin. She once wrote a beautiful sentence about me: “It was to amaze her that she amazed the world with her skill.” She also helped me design the windows of my rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré boutique.
WARHOL: Do you like it when it rains in Paris?
LANVIN: Yes, but I preferred to watch the rain from the terrace of my villa in Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
WARHOL: Do you believe in communism?
LANVIN: I believe in hard work.