Carven

Stephanie Edith Herold

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA225

Carmen de Tommaso was born in 1909 in Châteauroux, France. She intended to become an architect or an interior designer, but, driven by a perceived lack of clothing for shorter women, she chose couture. She renamed herself Marie-Louise Carven, combining her first name with the last name of her aunt, Madame Boyriven. She opened the inaugural Carven boutique on the Champs-Élysées in Paris on 24 May 1945.

In a chance encounter with a street vendor, Carven happened upon a green-and-white striped fabric. Enchanted by the pattern, she immortalized the cloth in a dress christened “Ma Griffe” (my signature, my label, my signature, my claw) for her first collection. The green-and-white model was reincarnated numerous times in ensuing collections. In 1946, she released the very popular Ma Griffe fragrance, packaged in verdant stripes. The pattern became a signature for the house. Carven’s elegant yet unfussy style also translated into winning competitions to design uniforms for the Parisian police in 1977, as well as uniforms for the first flight attendants at the Charles de Gaulle airport in 1974. Her petite wear was often characterized by suitably sized collars and dainty embroidery, which emitted effortless Parisian chic.

Madame Carven sold the house in 1990 and retired in 1993, having released over a dozen fragrances, as well as swimwear (1947), skiwear (1947), ready-to-wear (1950), Carven Junior (1955), menswear (1968), and jewelry lines (1968). Alejandra Sulitzer became the designer of Carven Couture in 1992, followed by Maguy Muzy, who worked on the line from 1993 to 1995. Muzy began designing women’s ready-to-wear in 1991. Angelo Tarlazzi succeeded Muzy in 1996; Edward Achour relieved Tarlazzi in 1998, and was followed by Pascal Millet. Groupe SCM purchased Carven in 2008. Guillaume Henry was named creative director in 2009, successfully revitalizing Carven creatively and financially by offering French designer fashion at a comparatively lower cost, for the sophisticated It girl exemplified by the likes of Alexa Chung. Henry reintroduced the menswear line in 2013.

Carven, Spring/Summer 1988. Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Join-Diéterle Cathérine, and Sylvie Bellu. Madame Carven: Grand Couturier . Exhibition catalog. Paris : Paris Musées, 2002.

Find in Library Martin Richard. The St. James Fashion Encyclopedia: A Survey of Style from 1945 to the Present . Detroit : Visible Ink, 1997.

Find in Library Stegemeyer Anne. Who’s Who in Fashion . New York : Fairchild Publications, 1988.