The Sartorialist Interviews Lucas Ossendrijver

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Scott Schuman, of thesartorialist.com, sits down with Lanvin menswear designer Lucas Ossendrijver for an exclusive one-on-one interview.

Click below for the complete interview…

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 –  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.
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