Making The Man
A Dutchman with a team of international designers redefines French menswear at Lanvin
Lanvin’s Lucas Ossendrijver is one of the most influential menswear designers working today. Born in Amersfoort, The Netherlands, Ossendrijver graduated from Arnhem Institute for the Arts with a Masters in draping form before moving to Paris in 1994. After working for brands such as Plein Sud, Kenzo, Kostas Murkudis, and Dior Homme Classic, he joined Lanvin in 2005. Since then, Ossendrijver has not only helped to define quiet luxury as the identity of the storied French house but also reinvigorated menswear with lightness and feeling. This fall, he surprises us with his undersized to oversized fits based on the idea of boys growing up too fast, as well as quilted satin dancing shoes and insect-like cufflinks. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re more than just a little hooked.
You’re kind of an “it” boy in fashion right now. How do you feel about that?
It’s sort of accidental because I don’t really feel that way. You try to do the best you can and you never know whether it pleases people or not.
What was your initial reaction when Lanvin said they wanted to hire you?
I was very happy, but the thing is, to be honest, I approached Alber because I heard they were looking for someone and I really liked his work. So I wrote a letter to him and got the whole thing rolling.
Tell me about the men’s line. How do you define it?
We try to keep it very French, whatever that may be. It’s funny that as a small team — an Austrian guy, a Chinese girl, a Japanese guy, an English guy, and a Swedish guy, and I’m Dutch — we’re all trying to define French elegance. It’s a way of dressing and combining things. It’s a little bit accidental. There’s a certain nonchalance to it that makes it very elegant.
You just showed Spring 2009. How has it evolved from the fall collection?
I think we went back to the idea of layering. We experimented a lot with elastic and ruching, opposites, different volumes created by those techniques. In a sense it’s something very airy, and has a sportswear element to it. Winter was a little bit more strict.
What’s the secret to making Lanvin relevant to younger generations?
I think what we can do is take the heritage of Lanvin and add the knowledge but try to innovate with new techniques. So you create classics but with a twist that a lot of people can identify with. It’s not about making Lanvin fashion; we’re not trying to be fashionable. We’re trying to make classics in a different way because I think people are more interested in quality than before, and in luxury.
Do you feel menswear designers can be more experimental with design today or are there still certain codes you have to go by?
I think it’s still restricted, but I see that as a challenge because it’s really about millimeters, constructions, and fabric research. You have to be really creative about it and about finding an identity and language because it’s a difficult balance and because it’s easy to become a caricature of yourself and go too far.
How do you foresee growing Lanvin’s menswear?
There are a lot of possibilities because there’s growing demand. This season we introduced jeans as a whole line so we did a double-breasted jacket in jeans, we did a shirt in jeans, pleated pants in jeans, real jeans, trainers and jeans, bow ties and jeans. It’s a need, actually — but at the same time there is a real story to it.
How closely do you work with Alber? How much of an emphasis is there on making the women’s and men’s divisions coherent?
He’s always there but not there. [Laughs.] No, it’s a very valuable relationship for me because he’s like my mentor. He gives me a lot of freedom and we see each other for fittings. He has a different eye because he does womenswear. I don’t feel the pressure, actually, because it’s a very natural evolution and I think what we do for the men’s is different from what we do for the women’s. But at the same time it’s the same universe. I think they go very well together. But we don’t try to duplicate what Alber does for womenswear. Sometimes there are certain techniques or fabrics we do use, but menswear is always a different language to womenswear.
Would you ever cross over to womenswear?
No, Not for the moment — I am very happy with the product.
Could you ever imagine not designing?
No. To be honest, I would be bored. It’s something that’s not just a profession but a passion. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I even get bored on holidays.