Known for Sumptuous, Ladylike Outfits : Jules-Francois Crahay; Lanvin Couturier

From Times Wire Services

Jules-Francois Crahay, a couturier credited with keeping the long-established Lanvin house among the leaders of Paris fashion for two decades, has died, officials said.

The Belgian-born Crahay was found dead from an apparent heart attack in his apartment here on Tuesday. He was 70.

Crahay joined the prestigious Lanvin firm in 1963 and stayed until his retirement 20 years later. He succeeded Antonio del Castillo, who had designed the collection from 1950. Founder Jeanne Lanvin died in 1946.

Before that Crahay had worked for Nina Ricci.

Crahay's first major outfit for Lanvin to attract international attention was a wedding dress for the designer Maryll, who married Bernard Lanvin, later president of the company's perfume operation. Maryll launched her own Lanvin ready-to-wear collection in 1982.

Crahay was admired for his sumptuous, ladylike outfits that dazzled with opulent fabrics. While he usually made fairly long dresses, he also showed sexy bloomers and tight strapless tops for evening wear.

Attracted to Folklore

"I love folklore," he once said in an interview, and many of his clothes had more than a touch of the rich peasant, complete with shimmering stoles and shawls.

He moved outside traditional circles in choosing his models. One of his choices for the 1982 season was cellist Olga Rostropovitch, who was garbed in dressy peasant attire.

Crahay was born in Liege, Belgium. His father was an industrialist and his mother a couturiere, who encouraged her son's talent for drawing and design. In 1934 and 1935, he studied design and cutting at a Paris couture school, returning to Liege to work for his mother.

Drafted into military service in 1938, Crahay was taken prisoner by the Germans in 1940 and not released until 1945, when he returned to Liege and took over the family couture business.

Entered Into Partnership

Crahay went to Paris in 1951 to start a partnership with Germaine de Vilmorin.

But the business was not a financial success and Crahay accepted a position with Nina Ricci, making a hit with his 1959 collection.

He was immediately recognized with a prize by Filene's of Boston in 1959, and by Neiman Marcus in 1962. When the House of Lanvin lured him into becoming its artistic director, he made another hit with his first major collection there in 1964.

After his retirement he lived in Monte Carlo and St. Raphael, a village on the French Riviera.

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