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Carven was the diminuative duenna Madame Carmen de Tommaso (b.1909), who studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and founded her haute couture house on the Rond Point des Champs Elysées in 1945.

She specialised in designing gowns for petite women (since one of her motivations for designing was to fill a gap in the market she had discovered for herself). An early signature look (literally, ‘ma griffe’) was a simple and fresh cotton green-striped, pleated dress, a design reflecting her desire to produce a discreet wardrobe to enhance the wearers, rather than overwhelm them. In Paris, Carven designs were worn by high society and celebrities, including Edith Piaf. In 1978, Air France hostesses wore Carven-designed uniforms.

Carven also had great success in the late 1950s and 1960s overseas, in territories such as Egypt, Brazil and particularly the Far East, where her designs represented the epitome of French chic, while providing a better, and conscientiously flattering, fit for smaller proportioned figures. Madame de Tommaso returned the compliment by using novelty prints inspired by her voyages to these countries.

The long-lived Carven scarf collection was launched in 1955, along with a girls’ line called ‘Carven Junior’. In 1956, a sweater collection was produced under license. The first Carven perfume was launched in the late 1940s, and the ‘Parfums’ division has remained a significant licensed sideline. Marcel Fenez produced a prêt á porter line for Carven in the early 60s.

The heavy licensing of Carven in the 1980s and 1990s overshadowed its couture origins, but the late 1990s saw an effort to restore direction to the label and it began producing a regular haute couture collection, which as of 2002, was designed by Pascal Millet. In 2009, men’s and women’s ready-to-wear lines were launched.

Madame Carven died in 2015 at the age of 105.

See also: Marcel Fenez

Written by vintage-voyager.com


from a late 1940s dress - Courtesy of nictesla

from a late 1940s dress

Courtesy of nictesla

from an early 1960s ready-to-wear cocktail dress - Courtesy of vintage-voyager.com

from an early 1960s ready-to-wear cocktail dress

Courtesy of vintage-voyager.com

from an early 1960s black faille cocktail dress - Courtesy of emmapeelpants

from an early 1960s black faille cocktail dress

Courtesy of emmapeelpants

from a 1980s jacket - Courtesy of vintage-voyager.com

from a 1980s jacket

Courtesy of vintage-voyager.com