Saturday, 4 August 2012

designer profile

'Ma Griffe', 1945
Today's designer did not start out with the intention of making a career in fashion. Carmen de Tommaso (b. 1909, France) had originally trained as an interior designer and architect at the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts. However this interest in design coupled with her diminutive size (5 foot 1 inch) led to a desire to fill the gap in the couture market for designs created with those of smaller proportions in mind. Thus in 1937 the House of Carven was born. By 1945 her business was located at the desirable address of Rond Pont des Champys-Elysses and she had been accepted into the Chambre Syndicale de Haute Couture.

Carven did not aim to be a trendsetting design house in the manner of Dior or Balenciaga. Instead she offered her clientele a complete range of garments from winter coats to wedding gowns and gave them her own twist. Her style was distinguished from her haute couture contemporaries by its more youthful and carefree attitude. Stars such as Leslie Caron were fans. Because of this she has sometimes been compared to the American designers Tina Leser and Claire McCardell.However although she shared their understanding of the contemporary woman her approach was not  a purist one. Her eclectic aesthetic was influenced by her travels to exotic locals which showed their influence in her use of print and surface decoration such as embroidery. The designer capitalised on her travels by using them as a marketing strategy: the designer leading an aspirational lifestyle. Marketing was something that came naturally to Madame Carmen.

1947 advertisement
Her most recognisable signature was the use of the green and white colour combination especially in stripes. She first played with this in her highly successful dress 'Ma Griffe'  ('My Signture') of 1945.The following year she launched a popular perfume of the same name packaged, naturally, in a green and white striped box.

'Ma Griffe'

Let's look at some more examples of her use of the combination white and green:


1948, Carven at top

Now let's look at a sample of the range of clothing Carven offered her clientele:



Summer Dresses 

1949, Carven at left

Day dresses





1946, Carven at left

Cocktail dresses


Evening Gowns


Wedding Gowns


Madame Carmen achieved success in many parts of the world thanks to her marketing savvy. As the 1950s progressed she had licencing deals for scarfs, sweaters and ready to wear lines and much more. However by the 1980s the business had become primarily about licencing. She was no longer involved in the brand in a direct fashion. With so many divergent lines and changing directors the brand lacked cohesion and was in trouble financially. By the late nineties the decision was made to start producing high-end clothing once more. Media attention and commercial success in this venture really began in 2009 when the brand, under the direction of Guillaume Henry started showing at New York fashion week.

Stay tuned for more Carven tomorrow.

Credits:, etsy, h.prints, vintage fashion guild

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