A new exhibit by luxury brands Lanvin and Carita provides a roadmap for a fresh, mutually beneficial brand partnership that focuses on experiences and joint brand imagery over products.
On March 2, French fashion house Lanvin and heritage beauty brand Carita came together at the newly opened Carita luxury spa for a Paris Fashion Week event revisiting the brands’ first collaboration, in 1952. Lanvin’s “Charmeuse” collection, made up of charmeuse dresses from its archives, was showcased in alcoves on the atrium walls of Carita’s Maison de Beauté, which reopened in September after two years.
“We invited the Lanvin brand to meet and talk about the future and the relationship between the two brands,” said John Nollet, artistic director at Carita for the past four years. Carita became part of the L’Oréal portfolio when it was sold by Shiseido alongside skin-care brand Decléor for a total of €227.5 million in 2014. At that time, L’Oréal said the two French brands together generated sales of about €100 million per year. The goal of the Lanvin x Carita partnership is to celebrate the history of the two luxury houses, which share a similar clientele, Nollet said. The exhibition is open to the public until March 24, democratizing access to high fashion during fashion month.
Regarding his artistic direction for the spa overall, he said, “I wanted to create a ‘hotel of beauty’ here — to bring the culture of hôtellerie to this heritage [beauty] brand. Hotellerie, or the culture of the French hospitality industry, has become a big draw for fashion brands. Partnerships between luxury hotels and fashion brands, largely through hotel pop-ups, are commonplace. Aquazzura currently has a partnership with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. Stateside, Marni teamed with the Sunset Beach Hotel in Shelter Island in 2021.
However, partnerships between big luxury brands are still rare, and rarer still between big players in luxury fashion and luxury beauty. There are many reasons for this, including that some luxury companies still see mixing brand IPs as a risky move. A recent, notable exception was Fendi x Versace.
“This is an obvious collaboration for Lanvin [to partake in], because the collaboration already started, in 1952,” said Davide Palombo, Lanvin’s worldwide visual merchandising director. Palombo chose the Lanvin archive looks for the exhibition and worked with Carita to best display the gowns. “Carita and Lanvin are neighbors and longstanding brand friends, and the exhibition came together naturally after we saw the venue and the new design of the Maison.” Lanvin has a store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the popular luxury shopping strip where Carita is located.
In developing the Carita headquarters, offering a new way to experience a luxury beauty brand was a goal of the company. In addition to creating separate areas for traditional spa elements, like treatments, permanent makeup application and hair styling, it also set up a private apartment space for hosting celebrity clients, the exhibition space now featuring Lanvin’s pieces and a collaborative café with chef Amandine Chaignon. The Lanvin exhibition among the first collaborative efforts to modernize the classic brand.
“We are a temple of beauty, of course, but hosting and service are [also important] to the brand,” said Olivia Besson, international communications director at Carita.
Luxury fashion brands are increasingly opening their archives to the public. At the same time, they’re developing new ways to incorporate their brand IPs into new channels, including apartment spaces and cafés. Louis Vuitton’s LV Dream flagship, which opened in Paris in November, features a chocolate shop, a café and a nine-room exhibition of pieces from the brand’s archives. That includes luggage trunks from 1935, scarves by past designers, and products from its collaborations with Christian Louboutin, Comme des Garçons and Karl Lagerfeld.
These activations draw in people interested in having a brand experience, rather than customers looking to buy products. Starting the customer journey earlier through such aspirational experiences may or may not lead to a purchase. But allowing more people to take part in the brand universe increases engagement and raises value of the brand among customer groups that were formerly priced out.
Carita x Lanvin is not the first experience-focused space by a beauty brand. But it’s among very few that have not led with a shopping opp.