There were two doors on the catwalk of the Lanvin show today, one big, one small. They were, on the one hand, representative of the Lanvin logo—one door for the mother, the smaller one for the daughter. On the other, they had some personal significance for Alber Elbaz. Backstage before the show, he said that the best words of advice his late mother ever gave him were these: “Be big in your work but small in your life.” Humility—unlikely as it may sound, it was the quality that tickled at the edge of Lucas Ossendrijver’s new collection. “Men don’t change every season, even every year,” said Ossendrijver. “What changes is their lifestyle. We always set luxury too high. Now men are on their bikes or on the metro or using Uber. They don’t wear a suit, or if they do, it’s different, with sneakers, and sleeves pushed up.” So that was where the collection was coming from: still with Lanvin’s decadent elegance but infused with an active, urgent spirit.
It was most obvious in clothes that looked like they were falling apart with their sense of pace. The topstitching on the side seam of a pair of pants was coming undone, the saddle-stitching on leather jackets was unthreading. It was an audacious effect in a collection that is famously priced high, but it conveyed a nothing-to-lose quality that was much more appealing than acute preciousness. For example, Ossendrijver talked about how the finale of the show, originally intended as eveningwear, morphed into something much more chaotic: a vest collaged from overlays of exhaustively hand-stitched squares (the result had a fuzzy, furry hand) under a leather-patched pajama-cum-biker jacket under a pristine white tux jacket. A crazy quilt. The tailoring elsewhere was subjected to similar glamorous indignity. A perfectly nice white coat had its sleeves slashed off, its back replaced with cotton voile.
Elbaz’s stated goal has been making luxury relevant. He’s looking for the middle ground between fantasy and reality, “how to find the middle without being mediocre,” as he puts it. There were all sorts of looks today that men might dismiss as fashion indulgences, but there was plenty more that answered a need for accessible individuality: suits more generously cut, exaggerated but masculine coats, even the blousons with their zipped-up hoods. That middle ground is much closer than Elbaz thinks.