Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Sartorialist Interviews Lucas Ossendrijver, of Lanvin Men's, for Holt Renfrew Magazine

A Look At Lanvin
Fashion�s �The Sartorialist� Scott Schuman sits down with Lanvin menswear designer Lucas Ossendrijver for an exclusive one-on-one

Scott Schuman: Before a show, how nervous are you that you�ve made the right decisions?
Lucas Ossendrijver: I�m somebody who doubts quite a lot. In the beginning of a season, I follow a certain intuition. For me, that�s the only thing I really trust. I start with a feeling, I start with an emotion; I have this dream in my head that I start to visualize and it�s all about communication. Whether it�s the team who works with me or whether it�s a fabric manufacturer, I try to explain what I want. With fabrics, for me, I really have to see them, I have to touch them and then I know whether they�re right or not.

SS: So you always start with fabric?
LO: Yes, and then I want to make the fabric speak. You have to find the right colours. Every fabric has its own colour and they�re all different. There�s never the same navy for every fabric. There are always tonal differences, which I think makes colour much richer in the end.

SS: Your colours are incredibly interesting and you don�t do typical colour combinations. I watch your runway shows and think, �Oh, wow, that�s great.� So it�s fabric, then colour?
LO: Then the shape at the same time, actually. It�s a bit like cooking: you have all of these ingredients and you sort of intuitively find the right way to make them work.

SS: Is there a lot of direction in terms of menswear that comes from what Alber Elbaz does for Lanvin women?
LO: Menswear is a different language than women�s. It doesn�t work the same way. Alber and I work separately, but sometimes we do have a similarity in colours we�ve developed. But, if you look closely, they are different.

SS: Are the Lanvin man and the Lanvin woman more like brother and sister or husband and wife?
LO: [Laughs] I think they�re more like brother and sister.

SS: Really? They have a more similar mentality?
LO: Yes, it�s just that the applications of it may be different. In menswear, there are so many boundaries and it�s about finding the right balance. You can start quite abstract and get experimental with an idea, but when the prototypes of the clothes arrive and I try all of them on to see if they feel believable or not, that is the real proposition and final judgment.

SS: Is there a particular modern man who represents the idea of someone you�d like to dress?
LO: No. That�s always a funny question because I find that really hard to answer.

SS: Is there a historical figure?
LO: I don�t know. I don�t have one role model or one sort of muse.

SS: Do you find that more freeing � that you can change from season to season because you don�t have one subscribed muse?
LO: I think it�s about men in general and what they need. Sometimes people need to wear a suit, sometimes people need to wear a warm winter coat. It�s about finding solutions that are individual � not standard.

SS: Do you find that your mood changes from season to season yet, still, underlying the idea of what you do, there�s a common thread?
LO: When I start a collection, it�s all very abstract. It�s much more about technique and intuition. This season, with the elastic, I was very into sportswear but trying to redefine it and not make it just �sport� but a hybrid between tailoring and sportswear. I need some kind of newness in what I do so I can try to bring in different elements that meld together.

SS: A lot of designers will shop vintage stores for ideas and techniques. Do you find yourself doing that?
LO: In the studio, we have sewing machines and we mix swatches; we work with clothes we find and with prototypes from seasons before. We cut them, we change them and it�s very hands-on. To be honest, I hardly ever draw a collection. I always work directly on the clothes.

SS: When you were little did you want to be a menswear designer?
LO: No, I went to art school. It wasn�t until I bought a hand-tailored jacket at a flea market and opened it up and found the construction inside that I became fascinated with menswear because it�s all about something hidden inside and the construction.

SS: How do you define a successful season � sales numbers? Artistic goals?
LO: It�s both. The press are important, but you�re getting judged by them for 10 minutes and, afterward, you get judged by the people who buy and wear the clothes. I think both are connected and both are important because you try to push forward and to make things people will like.

SS: How has the house of Lanvin influenced your work on menswear, if at all?
LO: The funny thing is there�s a huge archive for womenswear: books with embroideries, sketches, fabrics � everything, but for men�s, there is zero. For me, that was very liberating; you can start from zero. The only thing that is there is the made-to-measure department, which I�m really proud of. So when I started, I would go up to see the tailors and see how they work.

SS: How important should accessories be to men?
LO: I think they�re very important, especially for men. An accessory is an item you can buy quite easily and you can go a little bit further with it in terms of style without losing yourself. Also, a suit and a tie can be very different if the tie�s knitted, for example. It�s different without being extreme � [insert a space here] it looks like a tie, but it�s soft and less rigid.

SS: Lanvin is one of the top men�s collections there is now, one of the most directional. Is there something bigger you�d like to say about menswear?
LO: The way I started was an experiment, really. It wasn�t about a strategy. My team and I did what we thought was right. We did what we liked and we still do. In that sense, I feel very free. At the same time, now that it�s becoming bigger, it�s a bit scary. But what I hope to do is to continue the freedom. I think there�s still lots to do.

Discover the Lanvin Spring 2009 menswear collection only at Holt Renfrew�s Toronto Bloor Street and Vancouver stores and through 1-866-Holt-Renfrew (1-866-465-8736).

PS - It was really fun doing this interview with Lucas. I was pretty happy with the questions I asked, and it is so much easier to do an interview when someone else transcribes your conversation (thanks Holts). I also loved getting to do the interview and take the portrait (I am an American multi-tasker). Hopefully I will get a chance to do more of these in the future.

Here is an article that ran about Alber Elbaz last week in The New Yorker.
And by coincidence here is a link to a great article about Bill Cunningham in the same issue.


[Source: The Sartorialist]