This year marks the 90th birthday of Maison Lejaby, one of the world’s leading authorities on luxury lingerie, corsetry and swimwear. We take a closer look at the brand and how they celebrated this milestone achievement.
The world of design is a fickle one. What was the must-have brand in the 90s now raises a brow of confusion when the name is mentioned to a new generation. This continuous search for the latest trends, design and direction often raises a label to superstardom status only to be forgotten by the next surge. We often forget that seemingly ‘unsinkable’ brands like Chanel became almost forgotten until Karl Lagerfeld was brought in back in 1983 to save the fashion house from closing down.
So, for a fashion house to celebrate 90 years in the business is not just an achievement, it is simply momentous.
But just what has made Maison Lejaby the go-to brand when it comes to lingerie and corsetry for so many since 1930? The answer might lie in the decade it was founded in.
After the first world war had ended, the 20s brought with it a fun, loose, unrestricted era that was the complete antithesis of what the Edwardian era was all about. But after the champagne was drunk and the soles of the flappers’ shoes were danced through, life slowly returned to normality. Although far from free, the 30s was a pivotal moment for women. This decade saw women expressing individuality like never before, not for others but for themselves. This decade also saw the ‘modernisation’ of underwear.
It was in the 30s that the bra became a mainstream item where there were no corsetting or anything attached to it. In fact, it was only as late as 1937 when brands started to sell bras in different cup sizes.
But Maison Lejaby’s founding years saw perhaps the most important change of it all – that women started wearing underwear for comfort rather than pure function or for their husbands. In stark contrast from the rigid underwear previously the norm, the new direction for lingerie and ‘delicates’ saw soft, luxurious, comfortable fits fashioned in silks and lace.
This has been not only set in the finding foundations of Maison Lejaby but has been at its core for nearly a century. Understanding that yes, lingerie is and can be sexy, that is not its only form. It goes beyond the airbrushed sex-kitten look that almost creates the illusion that underwear is only worn once fresh out of the shower for your partner. It is seemingly odd that a brand holding true to the values of the 30s seems more pro-woman and forward-thinking than the new kids on the block. But let us be honest. Yes looking and feeling sexy in your lingerie can be of great enjoyment, shall we say, for your partner but there is something about wearing a delicate, sexy number on any day that just gives you that extra bit of confidence and needed boost. Maison Lejaby’s ability to masterfully blur these two ideals is what has kept it a fan favourite throughout the years.
In celebration of its 90th birthday this year, in true fashion, Maison Lejaby has once again done something out of the norm. Taking a look back on their archive of designs, the brand has commissioned each decade to 9 different photographers without any artistic direction or instruction. This has allowed each of them to portray a personal interpretation of each piece rather than a ‘campaign look’.
The Archive of Maison Lejaby Through The Eyes Of 9 Photographers
1930 | Agata Pospieszynska
Agata was born in Warsaw, where she obtained her degree before leaving for London. Photography allows her to manipulate reality and capture people’s dreams. Agata’s ability to bring her own feminine vision of romanticism to what she does is illustrated in the body of her work, which reveals fresh images that are full of texture. Her considerable technical knowledge, coupled with her eye for detail and love of fashion, have produced images that are both unique and highly distinctive, making her a photographer recognised today for her sense of style in terms of imagery and storytelling.
1940 | Keffer
Keffer first discovered photography through his desire to have a record of the street-art stencils that were his first works. This free spirit mixes people and ambiences as he wanders the world, snapping his subjects in impromptu studios. From the decadence of a Paris night to the soft beauty of a country dawn or the feverish, heart-pounding rhythm of a metropolis in movement, Keffer likes to capture moments that tell a story.
1950 | Conor Clinch
Conor Clinch is a photographer and director from Dublin. Originally from the north of the city, much of his inspiration is drawn from the working-class culture and unique characters. It is a visual and verbal reflection on what “perfect” means to him. He began to achieve renown for his work behind the lens at the tender age of 16. When he was 18, he caught the eye of Rankin, who took him under his wing. This gave him the opportunity to be mentored by the iconic photographer when taking part in a photography-focused reality show. The programme was a springboard to fame for him, taking him on to London, where he has lived for a number of years, working for many different brands.
1960 | Artus de Lavilléon
Artus de Lavilléon is a versatile artist known and renowned for his black and white, frequently autobiographical, drawings. He has also worked on numerous projects, including exhibitions, installations, performances, plays and documentaries, and founded a number of places and magazines related to skateboarding and fashion. His own life and everyday concerns form the central focus of each of his projects, be they in photography or illustration. “A friend once told me that my primary occupation was adding to my experience of life so that I could then go on to represent it in one form or another.”
1970 |Estelle Rancurel x Studio Less Is More
Estelle grew up in Hyères, in the south of France, surrounded by the sound of the waves and the aura of the town’s Festival of Fashion Photography. This is what led her to fashion photography: fashion and images had become her joint passion. In 2001, she began to gain experience working for leading photographers, magazine editors, photography studios, etc. At the same time, she started doing fashion shoots for magazines and brands who were already turning to her for their projects. Her eye was drawn almost immediately to the world of the teenager – she liked capturing the beauty of youth, its heightened freedom, its sweet madness and its pure desire. Estelle is particularly attached to open casting calls – it is a central focus of her artistic approach, which she wants to be as raw and free from superficiality as possible. She is becoming increasingly interested in the skin – details such as a torso with a handwritten message on it, the nape of a neck, a pierced ear – anything that portrays youth’s sensuality, of which it is sometimes unaware.
1980 | Thierry Lebraly
Thierry Lebraly grew up in the south of France. On graduating from art school he moved first to New York and then to Paris, where he worked as an assistant to many fashion photographers before launching his own career. His photographs are published in various magazines and he works with numerous fashion labels. He draws on a variety of inspirations, including his contemporaries, their feelings, life in general, etc. Movement and colour are the deciding factors in his compositions.
1990 | Alex Franco
Alex Franco, originally from Barcelona, took an interest in photography very early on. A passionate autodidact, he moved to London in his early twenties and worked as photographic assistant to leading names in the fashion industry. Now established in London and Majorca, Franco creates a unique natural imagery, filled with character, style and storytelling. His approach to photography plays with shadows, geometric shapes and abstracting the body. He is also recognised for his work on the world around him, where he uses photography to raise awareness and initiate dialogue. In 2016, he spent quite some time in Calais, documenting the refugee crisis, which resulted in an exhibition and fund-raiser in aid of refugees
2000 | Olivier Amsellem
Prizewinner at the Hyères Fashion Photography Festival as well as co-founder of the concept store Jogging in Marseille, photography has been part of Olivier Amsellem’s life since he was born and will surely be a part of it when he dies. As he himself has said, photography is both a form of writing and a door to the major arts. Photographers do not make images, they take photographs of their lives, their feelings. Olivier lives and works in Marseille
2010 | Marie Wynants
Marie Wynants’ photographs are inspired by her early years as a professional dancer. The central theme of her artistic production is the elegance of the human body and its physical limitations. Her playful, voyeuristic approach leads her to tease, unbalance and abstract her subjects – and her audience – from their natural movements. Guided by her own, meticulously and continually observed experience as a dancer, Marie Wynants has developed a gift for directing others so that what they do expresses her own inner reality. Not only is her background in contemporary dance a permanent influence on her body of work, it is also the driving force behind the person that she has become over the course of the past few years. Marie lives in Anvers.
In celebration of their 90th birthday, the brand has arranged a temporary exhibit of these works at Le Bon Marché, which has been on display since 20 October and will be available to view until the 8th of November.
Following the closure of the exhibition, the photographs will be given to We Give Collab who will auction these on Instagram. All of the proceeds from the sale is to be donated to charity.