Evolution, not revolution, is the quiet mantra of Lanvin's lead menswear designer, Lucas Ossendrijver. this idea of carefully nuanced
innovation fits the essence of the Lanvin style
as well - as it always has since Jeanne Lanvin
founded the fashion house in 1913.
Ossendrijver, a 41-year-old dutchman, cuts an elegant yet inconspicuous figure, exuding a modesty that belies his achievements (he had previously waltzed from Kenzo to Dior before taking the helm of Lanvin menswear in 2005). His personal style is casually studied and, to a degree, defines the Lanvin look: a classic silhouette that has been softened - or roughed up, if you prefer - around the edges. it's the trousers and jacket in fabrics that don't quite match; the formal jacket teamed with an ir- reverent sneaker; the statement accessory you can team with a pair of sensible shoes; the suit, made lighter and more playful. it's the joy of dressing up, without formal stuffiness.
Lanvin's creative hub is surprisingly mod- est, occupying the seventh floor of a narrow Parisian building in the 8th Arrondisment, with a Lanvin store on the ground floor. not many designers, have access to such a ready source of commercial feedback and Ossendrijver admits that he relishes being close to the store.
"I see my studio as a laboratory where we try out, experiment and play. there's a lot of freedom. Gradually we translate ideas, which might seem quite wild at first, to the customer. i like the contact with customers; i like to see how and why people buy our clothes."
In his white-walled studio, a team of five young assistants works with Ossendrijver. "[the studio is] really like family, because the work you do, you spend so much time together. We're not businessmen. We don't work in finance. Everything we do is intuitive. We talk about a process, yet everything is very personal. it's really about chemistry and communication."
Ossendrijver's mentor, Alber Elbaz, the Creative director of Lanvin and head of womenswear, works in the opposite building.
"Alber comes in when we do fittings and we exchange a lot, we talk," says Ossendrijver. "We make sure the collections are under the same umbrella, but it doesn't mean we share the same colours, fabrics or techniques, be- cause menswear is a different language."
He says that the most valuable thing he has learnt from his mentor is to step back and look at his work from a distance. "it is easy to get caught up in all the technical problems. Alber taught me not to get too attached to pieces; they can always be changed. nothing is ever finished until the show."