If there was one thing that other designers could learn from the house of Lanvin, it’d be that nothing keeps a roomful of jaded show-goers happy like hot coffee and sweet treats. Couple that with soft, carpeted floors, smiling waiters in giant bow ties and Burt Bacharach hits piping gently from the speakers, and Messieurs Alber Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver just won themselves the best hosts of the week award.
The clothes, too, were worthy of decoration. On this, the final day of the menswear shows, it’s safe to call fall 2011 the season of the Oxford bag, and Lanvin’s were served up over dainty tassel loafers, with trim double-breasted jackets above. Easy luxury is at the heart of a Lanvin collection—a cashmere turtleneck poking out from beneath a shirt collar, or a flowing silk suit—but there was something buttoned-up, almost stern in a knee-length coat tied tightly at the waist with rope, or a suit jacket fastened just that bit too snug.
The more feminine elements of the collection—a maroon silk blazer with rich aubergine pants, or a lounge suit in mossy green jersey—were buoyed with park ranger hats and leather hiking boots. Function can’t always follow form.
“Where there is tension, there is energy,” declared Lanvin men’s designer Lucas Ossendrijver after the show, “and this collection was really about that tension. A classic loafer and then an extreme hiking boot, or luxury tailoring mixed with sportswear. We tried to find the hybrid.”
Previous seasons have focused on embellishments and fastidious details (the closest menswear might ever come to couture), but fall 2011 was pared-down, resulting in an accessibility that isn’t always present in a Lanvin collection. This was classic menswear, though with that irrepressible Lanvin twist—hello, foxtail, we see you peeking out from beneath a coat.
The designer himself put it best when asked about the hats: “They bring out the face. It’s not just about the clothes themselves, but how they highlight the boy who wears them.” And that, right there, is the ultimate menswear hybrid.