Lanvin, 1957

Jeanne Lanvin – Castillo to be exact (a rare occasion in French fashion that the head designer’s name is made an addendum to the house’s). Headed by Antonio del Castillo, a Spaniard who had done stints at Paquin and Piguet, Lanvin wasn’t quite in the league of Balenciaga or Dior (the two houses that defined the decade) but very much held its own amongst other prominent couturiers sharing clients with Nina Ricci, Pierre Balmain, and Jaques Heim.

Charles Kleibacker‘s first placement in Paris was as an assistant designer to Castillo. Kleibacker was the only designer at the house who communicated by toiles (quickly draped muslin prototypes) rather than 2-d sketches. Castillo would review the forms, select the ideas he liked, edit out the ones he didn’t, and then leave Kleibacker to refine. Kleibacker’s hands on approach defied the practicum of the time when only a few designers draped themselves let alone construct a garment. Kleibacker’s 3-dimensional preference foreshadows his future technical innovations with the bias.

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