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Lanvin Suits, An Unofficial Lookbook

Men's clothing by Lanvin Paris

With its ludicrous posturing, and outlandish designs far removed from anything the average person in the street would even recognize as clothing, fashion is perhaps the creative industry most easily subjected to parody and ridicule. But if brands such as Comme des Garçons, Rick Owens, and even current “edgy” fashion darling Craig Green often send decidedly extrovert and impractical looks down the runway, in part it’s because they understand the marketing value of eccentricity.

Of course, Green is undoubtedly not expecting the average man in the street to ever don one of his colored-streamer and canvas-stretcher numbers (unless that man is, say, Nick Wooster). But aside from simply being very creative, Green also knows how to generate a nice bit of press coverage by means of eye-catching and unorthodox design. It helps, too, that he is consistent: you don’t go to a Green show expecting to see anything less than a riotous carnival of color propped up by two-by-fours.

Pity, then, a brand like Lanvin. When your “unique selling point” is simply tasteful and unfussy tailoring in navy and gray, you can hardly feel too dejected if relatively few column inches ever come your way. Journalists need a hook. The shock of the new – or at least something that will pass for it. Headlines screaming “Reinventing Menswear” or “A Fashion Revolution” do not go to the peddlers of discrete, well-made suits in nocturnal hues.

While the former creative director Alber Elbaz may not have allowed his own quirky personal style to filter through into the label’s menswear designs, he did at least keep Lanvin on a steady course. Since then, things have gotten a little more turbulent: Elbaz’s successor lasted all of 16 months, and her replacement didn’t even manage that.

Parallel to all this, the company also went through a succession of owners. Then more recently the brand’s long-serving, hardworking head of menswear Lucas Ossendrijver headed for the exit too, leaving Lanvin sailing as a ghost ship with no creative skipper at the helm.

Frankly none of this makes for great media copy.

While the new owners are evidently trying to milk Lanvin’s position as a heritage brand for all it’s worth, realistically there are only so many times you can wheel out the fact that you’re the oldest existing French fashion house and expect people to continue to give a damn. All in all then, Lanvin’s future was looking far from certain, until this week’s appointment of Bruno Siallelli as head designer.

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Mr. Siallelli is said to be taking Lanvin into the fashion future, while we (as resellers naturally do) are looking toward the past, with tasteful, high quality pieces designed by Lucas Ossendrijver during his long career at Lanvin. Under his direction, the brand produced discrete, well-made suits in nocturnal hues. No hype.

So let’s just say that there are midnight blue suits, and then there are midnight blue suits. While clearly not the kind of attention-grabbing outfit you’re ever likely to see in a Lanvin runway show, or strutting into Pitti Uomo (unless perhaps paired with some bright orange clown shoes and Dracula’s cape), an Ossendrijver-era Lanvin suit possesses a distinctive, clean and elegant silhouette that sets it well apart from other comparatively sober tailoring.

Looking for some sophisticated Scandi-style minimalism, but with the addition of a little Gallic flair? Well, you’re in luck, as we just so happen to have taken delivery of a very tasty quilted sport blazer, two classic plaid sport coats in winter wool, and one sharp dark blue windowpane check suit. All from “the oldest existing French fashion house,” bien sûr!

Without Ossendrijver’s touch, Lanvin will never be the same again. And this likely represents one of the very last opportunities to purchase his work with the brand. Form an orderly line Gentlemen, please!