Marie-Louise Carven-Grog, born Carmen de Tommaso, passed away in Paris yesterday.
She founded the house of Carven in 1945 with one objective: to make haute couture outfits that would fit her 5ft 1′ frame. “I was too short to wear the creations of the top couturiers, who only ever showed their designs on towering girls,” she once said, according to WWD. “But I wanted to retain my style – sober, practical and young, with a lot of sports garments.”
Her designs were an instant hit particularly in post war Paris as people aspired for something light and unpretentious after years of deprivation and hardship.
A contemporary of Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain, she was a pioneer in many areas of fashion – including ready-to-wear, fragrance (of which Ma Griffe is the most iconic), swimwear, children’s clothing, bridalwear and lingerie, even patenting the first push-up bra. Additionally, she created costumes for films, including 1955’s Les Diaboliques, uniforms for more than 20 airlines, and in 1977 was contracted by the City of Paris to dress its female traffic wardens.
“I never did it for myself,” she said of her brand in 2009. “I did it for the youngsters that came to see me, to teach them how to dress, to give them confidence in their own beauty – how to show themselves off through colours, styles, everything.
“Designers unfortunately think about making their mark on their design,” she continued. “I didn’t think of my designs like that. I thought about the young girls, the young women that I dressed, even my models, to show off their beauty to the maximum.”
She achieved the name of her famed fashion house by creating a portmanteau of her first name and the surname of her aunt Josy Boyriven, who introduced her to couture.
Madame Carven only gave up designing in 1993, in her 84th year, to concentrate on a passion for old furniture and antiques.
The brand changed ownership numerous times between 1993, when Madame Carven retired, and 2009, when young Frenchman Guillaume Henry was bought on board as creative director. Since then it has achieved great commercial success. Henry left the brand last year and was succeeded by Alexis Martial and Adrien Caillaudaud.