Classic Twist According to Lucas Ossendrijver Featured

The Lanvin menswear designer reveals all in this exclusive interview
by 29 April 2010

Perhaps you have spotted Lucas Ossendrijver at the end of the Lanvin menswear fashion shows. That’s because he is the designer who is in the process of evolving and changing the notion of menswear in this illustrious fashion house. Originally from Holland, he has been working alongside Alber Elbaz, the brand’s artistic director since 2006. Meet him.

What image did you have of Lanvin before you started working for the brand?
I didn’t have a very clear image of Lanvin. I did however have an ingrained notion of its quality, craftsmanship and custom tailoring. For me it was basically about shirts and suits. I had never gone into a Lanvin boutique before working there. I heard that they were looking for a menswear designer and I greatly admired Alber Elbaz and all that he had done for the women’s line. So I already felt a connection to the brand in some way. I sent an application and a week later I had a meeting with him and that’s pretty much how it started. It was very spontaneous. When I met him I found myself in the little office which belonged to Jeanne Lanvin, which has remained practically untouched. Alber Elbaz hadn’t even seen my work but we had a chat and I think that we just clicked. I knew that there was this notion of quality and hard work and that there would be lots of opportunities for development.

Is there a real sense of team work with Alber Elbaz, the creative director?
Everyone does their own thing. My studio is located underneath the menswear boutique and his is below the ladies wear boutique. The aim, so that the menswear and womenswear go together, is to create a common thread between them so that they don’t remain as two different entities. We are in constant communication. He has a different take on things. We have completely different personalities- almost opposites. I think it is this factor that leads us down such an interesting path. It’s also important to have someone so close at hand. If I am in doubt about something, I can show him. It’s really an exchange of ideas.

Where do you find your inspiration in your role as menswear designer?
I don’t think that at the start of every season we rethink what we have done and try to do the opposite, particularly in the world of men’s fashion. It’s more of an evolution than a revolution. It’s our desires that change. It’s mainly a reflection on the modern man: where he is today, what he needs, because it’s man’s role in society that changes more than anything else. It’s more intuitive than intellectual. We feel things and try to respond to these feeling accordingly and translate them into our work. I’m not a philosopher and I’m not always watching everything that’s going on. We follow our desires and those of men in general. Also men have really evolved over the past few years. They are more interested in fashion and more than ever they dare to show off this interest by not just wearing the same thing every day. They want new looks; they are more open. It’s quite exciting at the moment because there are more possibilities than before and more interest in fashion as far as men are concerned.

How would you define the Lanvin man?
He’s someone who has an understanding of quality, who knows how to recognise if an item is well-made and how to tell the difference. After that it’s a notion of spirit, of openness, willingness to experiment – a man who isn’t afraid and who knows what he wants. I also think that it’s a notion of trying to move forward. Men’s fashion is teeming with codes and pieces, like the suit, which are constant fixtures and difficult to change, so we are trying to push the limits. We want to convey something sensual – a man who isn’t afraid to show his fragility and who, at the end of the day, loves to play around with clothes and enjoys wearing them.

At Lanvin there seems to be a real sense of the importance of detailing, of the cut and of well-made clothes?
When I’m designing the menswear I think predominately about the construction as this is what interests me the most. I change the smallest details; it’s a question of millimetres. At the start of the season, it’s all about the material. Finding and developing the fabrics. A lot of the time we work exclusively with the fabric makers. With the materials it’s also important to find the right technique. For me the definition of luxury is something intimate. It’s for the person who’s going to be wearing it; it shouldn’t look ostentatious; it’s personal. It’s a very modern take on the way we think about luxury.

What is the Lanvin clientele like today?
It’s so varied! I often pass through the boutique since my studio is underneath it. I see old men, who have been coming to Lanvin for a long time, who have always bought their clothes here and who are always in the boutique. They buy shirts and suits. I love this loyalty. We didn’t want to revolutionize Lanvin, to make it a fashion label, as we wanted to keep this classic element. Our strategy was primarily to propose classics with a twist, to take a slightly different approach, and this is how we have been able to attract younger clients and clients who want to buy individual pieces like t-shirts, trainers or a pair of trousers and not simply a suit or a shirt. It’s a new way of buying. We have a clientele of all ages; it’s almost a luxury supermarket. It’s very open and I think that we’re incredibly lucky to have such a wide range in terms of our clientele.

A museum?
The Gustave Moreau museum, I love the atmosphere (14 Rue de La Rochefoucauld, 75009 Paris, Tel. +33 (0) 1 48 74 38 50).

A restaurant?
The Petrelle is an intimate restaurant just opposite to where I live, which has a delicatessen next door.
(www.petrelle.fr - 34 Rue Pétrelle, 75009 Paris, Tel. + 33 (0) 1 42 82 11 02)

A view of Paris?
La Place de la Concorde. You really realise how enormous it. Every time I go there I’m completely blown away.