The Art of Couture
To create a garment is to sculpt on the body with drape, texture, and color. Haute couture is mastery of that art form, the impeccable execution of vision and craft. A new exhibition at the de Young, Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style (Now through August 11, 2024) explores the intersection of San Francisco and fashion culture, including relationships between Parisian haute couture houses and their San Francisco patrons. It is a fascinating story that foregrounds not only exquisite style, but female entrepreneurship.
Evening Ensemble: dress and slip (Winter 1926-27) in silk chiffon, lace, and silk charmeuse by Louise Boulanger; Ensemble: bodice and skirt (ca. 1905) silk satin weave with silk velvet ribbon trim by Blancquaert.
Beginning in the the early 20th century, San Francisco leading lights patronized European haute couture houses including Dior, Lanvin, and Callot Soeurs. As the exhibition notes, “Callot Soeurs, run by four sisters, was among the foremost Parisian fashion houses of the time…you could travel to France to purchase their gowns – or, you could visit the City of Paris department store in San Francisco’s Union Square.” Noted philanthropist Ethel Sperry Crocker was a patron of Callot Soeurs, and there are several of her pieces on view in the exhibition. One is a lovely Evening Dress (1912) in silk satin weave with metal-wrapped silk that is “designed to wrap or pour over the body,” notes exhibition curator Laura Camerlengo.
Bespoke wedding gown created for San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer Yuan Yuan Tan (2023) by Lan Jaenicke. Dress (1912) by Callot Soeurs. Portrait of the young Ethel Sperry Crocker by Giovani Boldini.
Our house is based on the model of haute couture. Atelier Lan Jaenicke in Jackson Square offers made-to-order and custom services, executed by our in-house tailoring studio. Using only the finest-quality materials, we focus on impeccable hand sewing and finishing, and details like hand-made porcelain buttons and silk grosgrain ribbon (as the de Young exhibition illustrates via gowns dating back decades, beautifully crafted pieces endure). Our signature coats and new collections are also available throughout the year at both the Atelier and Maison Lan Jaenicke on Sacramento Street.
The Lan Jaenicke Atelier at Jackson Square (top). Lan creating bespoke gowns at the San Francisco Ballet Sensorium event (left and right). The Salon de Vente at the Callot Sisters atelier in Paris c.1910 (bottom).
As Fashioning San Francisco also observes, “Fashion was one of the few businesses in which women could be successful in Paris in the early 20th century.” We respect this lineage of female entrepreneurship both in our own work, and in that of the women we have the privilege of dressing. We're honored to work with women who are leaders in their fields, from technologists and scientists to artists and authors. They bring their brilliance, confidence, kindness, and wit into our world daily, inspiring and galvanizing us.
At Fashioning San Francisco, you can view garments that are part of the historic collaboration between visionary designers and visionary women. At Lan Jaenicke, we'll soon be debuting our Spring 2024 collection, and hope you'll be inspired to wrap yourself in a piece, or to commission your own visionary garment!
We welcome appointments at the Atelier for bespoke or custom pieces. Click here for details.