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LUCAS OSSENDRIJVER

Interview by Filep Motwary

Filep : There is something undoubtedly charming about you. The man you dress is also about charm and maybe desire… loose silhouettes yet always long and graceful. How would you define these two terms within a possible Lanvin vocabulary?

Lucas : Thank you for the compliment! I like the word “Charm” because it describes a human quality and at the same time it is difficult to define! Sometimes people also say that about my work. It’s more a perception of things than an oversize, conceptual statement sometimes sticks in your mind though. I love making clothes. The difficulty is to find the right balance between things you would want to wear and things that will look good in a photo. I want to make believable and desirable clothes, but at the same time open up perceptions of possibilities we can offer to men and give them more choice.

FM: Speaking of desire, the Winter (FW16-17) collection was filled with classic outlines layered by a very relaxed styling that also reflected hints of sexiness. 

LO: There is a certain “ease” in the Winter collection, the styling is less layered. I really wanted them to speak for themselves. The clothes we make are very elaborate, a lot of work goes into them in terms of construction and finishing as I love craftsmanship. A show is sometimes an ungrateful media because it’s hard to show details. That is why I wanted people to sit very close to the catwalk as the boys walked past. They could almost touch the clothes and be touched by them.

FM: Who is the Lanvin man really if I asked you to describe him let’s say?

LO: The Lanvin man is a man who enjoys clothes! Not necessarily a fashion victim because our clothes do not scream, they whisper. I like the idea that clothes give you strength, they make you feel better about yourself and give you confidence, however they should never overpower you.

FM: Could you walk me through the beginning when you took over menswear at Lanvin compared to now? What were the most defining moments through your signature for the house?

LO: When I started 10 years ago there was not a very clear image of what Lanvin was. I had the chance to redefine the silhouettes and codes. As there was hardly any archives for the menswear I could really start with a clean slate. Season after season we developed the identity and signatures. The shows were quite small and intimate in the beginning, but as the interest from the press and the size of the business grew, so did the show. I remember in the beginning we had a small showroom with 3 tables in my studio, in contrast to now where we have a big showroom elsewhere with 30 tables. Personally there was one season that marked the change for me, it has been one of my favorites: WINTER 2010-11. It was held at the Palais de Tokyo. The setting was more modern, concrete floors, strong lighting and I also felt the collection had evolved. I felt more in control, we had reached the next stage, everything felt more affirmative to me. Since that moment I believe that people watch more closely on what we do.

FM: Ten years at Lanvin is quite a long service to a house, that you managed until recently, alongside A. Elbaz, to revitalize its reputation in luxury. Being alone at Lanvin now, how does it feel? What has changed?

LO: I love Alber, he was also the reason why I came to Lanvin. Working with him for 10 years was a great experience and a pleasure. To have someone to exchange with is very valuable; you learn! None of my ways of working has changed and I actually do not feel very different than before. I continue the job I have been doing for the last 10 years with the same fantastic group of people I have around me. Fashion is not a solitary business, it’s working with people and communicating all the time.The recent changes just make me think more about what I love about fashion and why I want to do this; in a way it made me more focused.

FM: How do you maintain morals that are opposite from fast fashion?

LO: I do have a hate-love relationship with fashion. I love designing clothes, the process, the craft, working with people. It is really a passion for me and I feel lucky to be able to do this. Even though the speed has changed a lot over the last years: more collections, pre-collections. The danger is that you do not always have the time to think and to digest an idea before you have to put it out there. There is so more stuff out there, and so much stuff with no real value. Who really needs all those clothes? I sometimes wonder! My only answer to that question lies in the values you put into the clothes, how they are made, the quality, what they can give to the person wearing it. That is the difference with fast fashion where most is copied and disposable. How about just good clothes?

FM: Is there is a methodology or philosophical frame- work within which you work?

LO: The beginning of a season I always start with abstract big ideas, it’s like a reaction on everything you did before, you want it to be new and strong. Then, gradually, reality kicks in and you start problem solving and slowly bringing things back to real clothes. There is always an important question during this process: “could I imagine somebody actually wearing it, or would I wear it?” In the end you do not make clothes to look good in a photo but you want to make clothes which make people look good in real life. That’s the difference: in the end it is not about a conceptual statement, it’s about the clothes! I try to never forget that.

FM: What are the commercial considerations at Lanvin, if any? And what about your editing process? What is your strong point? What are your chief preoccupations in your collections technically?

LO: There is a lot of freedom, but I’m realistic and it is important to know what you sell, it’s part of the game. I have learnt to get rid of things that are not important. As a designer you can get attached to certain pieces because they were difficult to make or the process was long. You remember the work it was, the problems you had in finding the right solution to make it work. Designing is really problem solving. However, in the end you should be able to take a step back, appreciate from a distance and look at what you are doing from the outside. Sometimes you take out or cancel pieces you care about if they do not fit the story.

FM: And further on this, I wonder, how difficult it is to create collections that speak to both the individuality of the brand and to current trend. How easy is it for a designer to produce clothes that are to love and to keep?

LO: I never think of trends. Fashion is about intuition, it’s the only thing I trust. You have to stay true to yourself and the brand you work for. You look at the history of the brand and respect it but what you do has to be relevant for today and the world we live in now. That’s where the difficulty lies: It’s being at the right time with the right idea. You can be too late or too early and then it doesn’t mean anything.

FM: In the 90’s fashion went global attendant to an expanding world wide web with a proliferation of modern, functional clothes that were trans-cultural. How would you describe today’s scene?

LO: Chaotic! It is as if everybody is waiting for things to change and everything gets blown-up to gigantic proportions in no time. The “hunger fox”, “the new” is a scary thought , the press also play a big role in that…. I prefer things that last, it is the hardest thing to achieve in fashion actually, to last !

FM: How difficult is it to achieve functional results, embrace practicality and maintain luxury?

LO: You have to be in control of what you do. Know why you are making certain decisions and not others. Some things come at a price and you have to be able to justify it to your clients. They never lie! If a piece is special they are often willing to pay the price.

FM: Why do we always try to reinvent the silhouette?

LO: Fashion is about color, fabric and silhouette. Those are the elements you play with as a designer. It’s your language. To seduce people you have to bring change, they will not buy the same thing over and over. Also as a designer you can love something so much one season, to dislike it the next. It’s the natural evolution of things. The fact that we explore the silhouette in menswear is actually quite new, it did not change that fast in the past. Now there seems to be movement with quicker and more radical changes than ever before. At Lanvin we have always played with different volumes and silhouettes. It’s never been that linear as I truly do believe nobody is the same and what works for one might not work for another. Lanvin is still about individuality, I like the idea of choice!

FM: For most people, buying a Lanvin piece is an investment. Should it be this way and to what extent you feel responsible towards the customer? In what ways?

LO: I’m very aware of that and know about the prices! We do make a lot of efforts to keep things affordable, but we are a luxury brand with very high quality standards. A lot of workmanship, craft and love is put into the clothes; from fabric research, to developing exclusive fabrics, the construction of the clothes and detailing. I really push my manufactures to the limit in order to go forward. All that work comes at a price. But as I mentioned before, our clients see the difference ; if they understand that a piece is special they are often willing to pay the price. It sets us apart from lower priced brands. Don’t forget we come from a history of bespoke!

FM: Is there a bad version and a good version in what you do? How passionate are you for the things you believe in?

LO: I am extremely passionate about designing. I wouldn’t know what to do if I was not doing this. It makes me wake up at night and takes up all my time. If this wasn’t the case why would I do this? I go for things 100%, it’s the only way for me. What I love about fashion is also what I dislike about it : The speed. But it gives you the possibility to reinvent and question everything every six months. It’s kind of addictive.

The interview by Filep Motwary was originally published in BOYCOTT magazine issue #4 (June 2016) to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of Lucas as the menswear designer for the House of Lanvin. The story featured a fashion story by Scandebergs. Styling Richard Sloan / Saint Luke. All clothes Lanvin.

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Lucas Ossendrijver joined Lanvin in 2005 as head menswear designer, having previously worked for Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme, and has made Lanvin’s menswear collections a success both critically and commercially.