Their primary function might be to avoid being overheated, but the elegant way to carry a hand fan can enhance a woman’s sense of style. Parisian house Duvelleroy brings these feminine accessories back into fashion with a breathtaking collection.
Femininity has much to do with grace. It is not only a matter of a fashionable ensemble but it is also in the attitude of the wearer. Among the most important accessories to express a woman’s charm, fans can be also be quite intriguing. For many seasons, they seemed to belong to ancient times, relieving ladies who were wearing multiple layers of heavy dresses and could barely breathe. In recent years, city girls in Europe seemed to remember the cooling advantage of these vintage accessories, even in the Parisian subway. An ancient brand, Duvelleroy brings back the accessory to make sure they fit with the latest trends – just as it was in the 19th century, when fans were essential piece to adorn an outfit.
Jean-Paul Duvelleroy started crafting beautiful fans in Paris in 1827. His business became successful, and he established a shop on rue de la Paix, the street near Place Vendôme where all the prestigious Haute Couture houses could be found. Duvelleroy designed the company’s magnificent pieces for the French elite and soon became the official supplier to the queens and empresses, most famously Queen Victoria of England and Empress Eugenie.
A few years ago, in 2010, two young ladies “knocked on the door” of this prestigious house to wake up the sleeping beauty and, as they put it, “to bring modernity to couture fans, to bring Duvelleroy back”. Partnering with the house’s last heir, they have offered the brand its renaissance. Traditional know-how is still applied to design the modern hand-crafted fans and couture pieces, with the help of a specialized fan-maker. The sophisticated items require not only great designers but also the expertise of embroiderers, pleaters and engravers among other highly skilled craftsmen.
There is no doubt that the two business women, Eloïse Gilles and Raphaëlle de Panafieu, are quintessential visionaries: each season they create a new collection, often paired with artists of the moment, the collection is always splendid, with a fabulous selection of desirable and versatile fans. In Paris, the boudoir-inspired boutique is nested in a lovely neighborhood, only a few steps from the Eiffel Tower. For those who are particularly interested in the fascinating history and making of these accessories, Duvelleroy’s archives can be visited upon appointment.
One interesting history about fans is the fact that they were also used to convey messages from the ladies to their admirers. Depending on how a woman held her fan, she would use a secret language, meaning “follow me”, “I want to see you” and with the fan fully displayed under her eyes, “I love you”. More instructions on these and other messages are available on a little video on our website as well as the Duvelleroy website. Today, probably no one watching a woman with a fan would understand such sophisticated nonverbal communication. However, the beauty of the gesture remains a fascinating source of elegance. Duvelleroy fans are definitely a whimsical and yet practical option for a gift as a souvenir from Paris, or any other lovely occasion. The dilemma being which one among these beautiful fans will you bring home with you?