BACK TO THE FUTURE. The man behind Lanvin’s sneaker-and-suit pairings, Lucas Ossendrijver chats fashion, luxury and the future in today’s highly wired world, writes Chris Andre
Looking nonchalant in a dark navy suit devoid of accessories, Lucas Ossendrijver’s unassuming appearance doesn’t give much away. A man with formidable design credentials, his quiet disposition is a stark contrast to his distinctive tailoring habits. In the global menswear arena, the Dutch designer has been instrumental in transforming patent leather sneakers into the perfect accompaniment for sleek suits. The gentrified kicks have since been donned by the likes of Kanye West, Robin Thicke and Robert Downey Jr. across a number of Hollywood red carpets. However, these versatile sneakers are just one example of the numerous ideas he has for the creation of new must have items for men’s wardrobes.
According to Ossendrijver, Lanvin Homme was founded on the basic premise of creating wardrobe essentials for men. While the brand has gained both accolades and recognition for its finely tailored tuxedos and bespoke suits over the years, the shrewd designer has creatively brought the fashion house into the present by capturing the zeitgeist of the noughties. He also freely admits that the Internet, social media and the millennials are all elements that have inspired his progression as a designer as well as his new collections.
At the fall/winter 2014/15 runway show at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris last January, the concept trickles down to punk-looking youth sporting sumptuously cut outerwear and bold-colored accessories including a series of arresting sneakers. The whole outfit selection progresses gradually from somber tones to bright shades with several tops emblazoned with oversized images of hands and faceless heads. “It’s about identity,” responded Ossendrijver in an interview immediately after the show. He went on to elucidate how the digital age has interconnected the whole wide world, inevitably undermining individuality, hence the portrayal of heads without faces and hands disconnected from bodies on several tops in the latest collection.
The fall/winter 2014/15 runway sends out punk-looking models
Student of the ’90s
Speaking of individual identity, Lucas Ossendrijver’s rise to be one of the most influential menswear designers actually began in the early 1990s. After sharpening his skills at Arnhem’s Institute of the Arts in the Netherlands, he teamed up with two talented classmates namely Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren—who later founded Viktor & Rolf—and kickstarted a design collective called Le Cri Néerlandais. Although the collaboration didn’t last long, it catapulted Ossendrijver’s career to securing a post at Paris-based Kenzo in 1997.
Three years at Kenzo gave him invaluable insights into the fashion business that soon led him to a major break in 2001: assisting Hedi Slimane at Dior Homme. It was quite a learning curve, Ossendrijver said in an interview, working alongside Slimane’s insatiable appetite for sartorial perfection. And the hard work he put in at Dior Homme didn’t go unnoticed, as in 2005 Lanvin recruited Ossendrijver to reinvigorate the men’s collection. The rest, as they say, is history.
The contrasting head image is one of the season’s signature designs
The hand image provides another striking accent
Attitude and latitude
What has made Lucas Ossendrijver such a recognizable force in the high-end menswear sphere are not only his creation of new fashion staples—such as the iconic patent leather sneakers first launched in Lanvin Homme’s 2006 collection—but also his willing exchange of ideas with the brand’s creative director and womenswear designer Alber Elbaz. The fruits of this collaboration became manifest in the emergence of Lanvin sneakers for women in the wake of the considerable success experienced in the men’s arena. Under Ossendrijver’s guidance, Lanvin Homme also stays up to date with current trends despite the brand having its 125th anniversary this year. His attention to detail always ensures technical precision on the cuts and silhouettes, yet Ossendrijver’s most essential asset is his clear vision. This is the quality arguably most responsible for the unique and expressive attitude felt at his runway shows and the way Lanvin Homme is able to reinvent its line season after season. With this 44-year-old designer at the helm, the future looks very bright indeed.
The ensemble shows meticulous layering
“I think luxury can sometimes be wild; luxury can also be creative; luxury can be geeky”
Chris Andre: Hi Lucas, let’s talk about the fall/ winter ’14 show. What kind of emotion did you want to convey on the runway?
Lucas Ossendrijver: When conceptualizing a new collection, it’s always like a black hole, a blank sheet of paper. You don’t have the solution straight away. What we try to do is find a guideline for the season. While working towards this season, we came to digital, because today everybody is “living” on the Internet, Facebook, and other social media. We read on the Internet and we also buy on the Internet.
By doing that, you inevitably create a community but by joining such a community, do you erase or emphasize your personality? And that is the theme of this season. We want to really look toward the future and much less at the past. So it’s about emphasizing personality and adding a new definition of luxury.
When you think of luxury, a lot of people think about cashmere sweaters, for instance. And I think luxury can sometimes be wild; luxury can also be creative; luxury can be geeky; luxury can be a lot of things actually, and that is what this fall/winter collection is about. So, what we try to do is give options to men. It’s not linear; it’s not uniformed, but there are a lot of different possibilities. One day you want to wear a suit; the next day you want to wear a bold jacket when you go out. It is about creativity and freedom.
CA: How did you translate the digital idea during the creation process?
LO: For one example, there’s a group of suits, with almost clashing silhouettes, narrow or drop shoulders. All those suits are worn with sneakers in very strong colors—like the colors of pop-up screens: pink, green, blue. Digital colors! Those sneakers almost look like they are deep-dyed, to the extent where at first glance you don’t notice that they are comprised of different materials. For the shirts, they come in the same block colors too. So, it’s really about creating a sort of electricity through a look. You have a classic, tailored jacket in new proportions, and you have really strong-colored sneakers and shirts. That’s just one way of doing it.
CA: What do the oversized hand and head images used on several pieces in the last part of the show actually represent?
LO: Well, it’s about identity in the digital world, and nothing to do with tribal imageries. [Laughs] We’re in this space (École Nationale des Beaux-Arts), and it’s like a garden of statues, but they don’t have faces. The faces are erased, that’s what it’s about—it’s almost like they are shadows or digital footprints.
The in-trend sneakers of the season
CA: You have another series of splendid sneakers for the season. Out of all footwear, why sneakers?
LO: Yeah, I love sneakers because they have a different flair, a different attitude. It’s less serious. For me, sneakers are also luxury. If you look closely, we also add lots of beading on the laces along with metals and colors—very tiny details. But from a distance, they look very simple—not like there are 10 materials put together.
CA: Considering Lanvin’s illustrious history as a brand, does this actually benefit or constrain your design freedom?
LO: This year we celebrate the 125th anniversary of Lanvin, the oldest couture house that’s still running. It’s not a weight on my shoulders, as it gives me confidence to create. Lanvin has been here for a long, long time, and will continue to be for a long, long time. And I’m very happy and proud to be a part of that.
CA: With a new collection, how do you begin the physical design process?
LO: I always start with fabric research. For me, fabrics always give answers and directions. When I see the textures, the way a piece of fabric falls, the way it feels, that’s what sort of gets me going. From fabrics, I then move to shape. You can’t dictate fabrics. Each fabric falls in a certain way, so you have to find a solution to create the right garment.
The clash of patterns in bold colors captures the digital idea
CA: Which fabric do you champion out of the current collection then?
LO: This season … it’s a very difficult question to answer because we’re using very opposing fabrics, I must say. We have flannel—a classic option that I love—and we have more technical fabrics: polyester, cotton and wool mixes. But for me, it’s mostly about futuristic fabrics that are also innately technical.
CA: Could you tell me what the color of the season is for Lanvin Homme?
LO: We have lots of different colors—very subdued dark varieties, almost like fake black. But there’s burgundy, lots of green and really dark greys, blacks, navies—which are the classic colors for us (Lanvin)—and, next to that, almost the chemical color like that used on the green or pink knitwear, or the sneakers I was talking about.
CA: What is your favorite color?
LO: I love navy—I’m the most classic in my class. [Laughs] The jacket that I’m wearing is actually using a modern fabric. It’s a cotton and polyester mix, and we worked on the silhouette, so its narrow shoulders and the volume is a bit boxy. But it’s dark-colored and easy to wear.
CA: Last but not least, what is your own definition of luxury?
LO: Luxury should be about creativity and freedom—freedom to create and freedom to choose.
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