Meet the designer who started the label|Carven

Carmen De Tomasso

Carmen De Tomasso

It is rare that a fashion house, which has been around for decades, gets reinvented for the modern woman. That is precisely what has happened at Carven.

Madame Carmen De Tomasso was born in 1909 in Chatellerault. Even though she studied interior design and architecture at Ecole de Beaux Arts, she decided she wanted to be a dressmaker.  Carmen was a small lady and found it difficult to find beautiful clothes that fit her and so decided she wanted to make a collection of clothing that would suit petite women and lengthened their figures and so she started Carven in 1945.

When Carmen set up Carven she discovered that there was a gap in the market. At the time designers were making clothing for older women, not young women. Carmen started to make garments that would appeal to the younger woman. She favoured green and loved green and white. She created a green and white summer dress and she called it Ma Griffe.

The fashion house became massively successful and drew in celebrity clientele. Leslie Caron wore Carven dresses and an Egyptian princess was also dressed in Carven. Other noticeable features within Carvens designs were decorative detail, pristine white collars and cuffs, fabrics and embroideries, which shaded from light to dark.

Carven grew to become more and more successful and was chosen to design the uniforms for Air France stewards. The label became so popular it had a range of accessories, luxury goods and even alcohol. During those years, Carmen travelled a lot and this influenced the designs she produced. One collection was based on paintings by Velasquez. She produced an African collection and a collection that was inspired by Chinese lanterns. Trompe l’oil was also used a lot in Carvens designs.

Madame Carven turned 100 in 2010 but she had stopped designing for the fashion house when she was 84. Guillaume Henry took over at Carven. Henry had originally worked for Givenchy but was appointed creative director for Carven in 2009.

Guillaume has revived Carven and made it more affordable and kinder to the wallet. In The Spring 2011 collection a lot of the pieces were really modern and it was in a pale colour palette. The collection was almost too modern. However, for Fall 2011 Henry cited Simone de Beauvoir and lee Miller as muses. The collection was all about being properly dressed, something that Henry likes. It appeared as if Carven was starting to return back to its roots. The clothing looked like what would have been worn when Carven started but with a modern twist.

For the Resort 2012 Guillaume has cited what inspired Carmen, her trips. The collection was inspired by a holiday in Switzlerland. Similar to Carmen, Henry is being recognised for his staple design feature. He uses the cut-out a lot in the way that Carmen used fabrics and embroideries that shaded from light to dark. Carven is becoming as successful as it ever was and Guillaume will not doubt have big plans for the label.

Carven is available to buy at Matches and Net-A-Porter.

Carven collection

Images courtesy of VintagePerfumeVault and Style.com.

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