This is CR Muse, a series dedicated to the remembrance of important artists and idea-makers from our past who have shaped culture as we know it today. From traditional creators to those of conceptual thought, we celebrate these women known not only for their work but their confident, eccentric style as well.
Standing at just over five feet tall, Carmen de Tommaso had trouble finding clothes that flattered her. Not unlike today, the couturiers of her time crafted their wares for tall women. Her own mother even told her she would “never be elegant” on account of her height. Determined to be fashionable, and knowing she couldn’t count on designers to create clothes for her, de Tommaso formed her own line: Carven.
She launched her couture house (a portmanteau of her first name and her aunt’s surname), in 1945. It was far from an easy endeavor. The war had only just ended, and fabric was difficult to come by in France. Still, she managed to acquire some that had been hidden in the attic of a chateau. It wasn’t anything lavish—in fact, it was thought to have originally been bought for maid’s uniforms—but as the base of her debut collection, it set the tone for her brand. Her version of chic was accessible: Cotton and gingham became staples of her aesthetic. And in 1950, she was among the first couturiers to launch a ready-to-wear line, shaping the fashion industry into what we know today.
Because of the petite sizes she was producing, her brand was initially referred to as “catering to teenagers” (she didn’t officially launch a junior line until 1956). But Tommaso quickly found high-profile customers who shared her smaller stature, including Leslie Caron and Edith Piaf. Her perspective on size and proportion was a major asset, especially as she had no formal fashion background (she had actually studied architecture).
But where Tommaso really thrived was in her ability to promote her brand. Her marketing gimmicks were ahead of their time. When she launched her perfume, Ma Griffe, she dropped free samples of the scent over Paris from an airplane. And when Gone With the Wind finally hit French theaters in 1950, she designed a collection to coincide with the premiere.
Tommaso had numerous achievements in her career—she was the first to patent a push-up bra in France, and became one of the first designers to stage fashion shows all around the world. She also designed television and film costumes, airline uniforms, and dressed the 1976 French Olympic team. Despite all this, surprisingly little is written about her. Unlike her post-war contemporaries, including Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, Tommaso, who passed away in 2015, never achieved mythical status. Nevertheless, she lived long enough to see the house’s successful transformation to a contemporary brand during its Guillaume Henry era—and thankfully, not its dramatic nosedive into severe financial crisis, which caused the brand to shutter for several seasons. And despite an impending relaunch, the future of Carven is still hanging in the air. Whatever happens, it’s a brand well-worth remembering due to the fiery woman who launched it.END
prev link: https://www.crfashionbook.com/culture/a28293158/carven-founder-carmen-de-tommaso-legacy/
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