The Last of the Menswear Reviews: Lanvin, Dior Homme, and Thom Browne

Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt. Our contributor Long Nguyen has made it through the men's shows and is well into couture
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Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt. Our contributor Long Nguyen has made it through the men's shows and is well into couture
From L-R: Lanvin, Dior Homme, Thom Browne

From L-R: Lanvin, Dior Homme, Thom Browne

Long Nguyen is the co-founder and style director of Flaunt.

Our contributor Long Nguyen has made it through the men's shows and is well into couture. Read what he had to say about Lucas Ossendrijver's stellar and biz-savvy collection for Lanvin, a redeeming collection for Dior Homme from Kris Van Assche--he seems to have found his groove, and Thom Browne's latest spectacle (yes we've posted video).

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LANVIN “We never have any theme for the collections,” Lanvin menswear designer Lucas Ossendrijver said immediately following his spectacular spring show. “We try to think of the collection as a whole and how to answer to different needs. What we try to do is to find a balance between tradition and modernity: on the one hand you have the traditional fabrics and tailoring methods, and on the other you have very high tech sportswear.”

With the sun shining through the open doors of the cavernous Halles Freyssinet, and Memorabilia on the soundtrack, models walked in a mix of black and white pieces for the first half of the show: black sleeveless lambskin biker shirts were tucked into high waist double pleated pants, the jackets of a white single-breasted slim flared out just slightly at the hip.

“The traditional pieces are deconstructed completely--like the shirting jacket that is just basically a silhouette of the jacket,” Ossendrijver said. “We took out most of the construction of the jacket. In some cases we glue the collar lapel to the jacket so that it is flat and these jackets have no buttons but they maintain their shapes.”

Even with all the shapes and materials all mixed into these garments, the clothes never have the feel of heavy handedness and experimentation.

“We tried not to be more democratic with the collection as you can see loose and fitted, tradition and sports,” Ossendrijver said. “ We have to be more generous in our offering and not less.” He sounded just like a businessman who understood the needs of the marketplace--and that is why the growth of menswear at Lanvin has exponential over the past several years.

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DIOR HOMME

This time last year, Dior Homme designer Kris Van Assche showed a spring 2011 collection he called 'Less is More.' The title represents a central tenet of Van Assche’s aesthetic and one that he has been attempting to impart onto his Dior Homme collections since the first runway show in fall 2008.

Not all of Mr. Van Assche’s efforts for Dior Homme have been successful. Often there’s too much of an intellectual approach. One season ‘less’ meant unfinished jackets and coats with excess fabrics hanging from the shoulders. In another, the clothes felt overly clinical and lacked feeling--a necessary ingredient to sell designer clothes.

Mr. Van Assche has struggled to define the Dior Homme aesthetic. But by infusing his clothes with sportswear, or, in the case of last fall, military elements, Mr. Van Assche has evolved Dior Homme into a finely tailored collection dotted with elements of street wear.

Mr. Van Assche tried again with his 'less is more' ethos for spring 2013 and this time succeeded in cutting a lighter silhouette that looked right on the runway--and will look right on customers. A sleek, structured two button jacket (the buttons themselves bearing archival Dior logos from the early '50s) with slim lapels hit just at the waist over slim pants.

This collection hit a balance between the tailored (see: suiting--strong shouldered, six button, double-breasted--and knee length two button coats, for example) and the sporty (see: cropped navy silk blousons, a black lamb leather shirt jacket, and embroidered sweaters). Mr. Van Assche kept things monochromatic in deep navy tones (with the obligatory nod to Dior light grey), a nod to a marine inspiration following fall’s army theme. And this time, he did not let things get too cold or too cerebral.

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THOM BROWNE

We sat out in an open courtyard, waiting patiently to see what Thom Browne had into for us this time. Looking at the staging of about 40 pairs of silver shoes lined up neatly in front of us we knew somehow that models would be stepping into them. But how?

Then suddenly, it was like a scene out of the old Clash of the Titans (the one from 1981) where Harry Hamlin battled everyone and everything – man, animals and hybrids – in his quest for Medusa’s head to save Princess Andromeda. Two pairs of satyrs all painted in shiny silver makeup came out and after some gesturing towering over us, they settled in a corner of the courtyard.

Then the first model emerged and walked while holding up a silver tube that covered his entire body and head until each of the 40 models all found their silver shoes. In unison they dropped their silver tubes to reveal a spring collection of familiar silhouettes in a mixture of bright colors. Just watch to see what I mean:

Among the red/green/blue/yellow/teal combinations of plaids, stripes, whale and lobster embroideries, there were four discernible new shapes among the layered looks: Cropped jackets--both single and double-breasted--that came in sleeveless, short sleeved, or long sleeved variations and worn with shorts; and the same variations done on a coat.

In the past few seasons, Mr. Browne has been criticized for his extravagent productions. One season it was a cabaret at Maxims in Paris, the next was a spaceship landing inside the French Communist headquarters.

There are strict limits and boundaries in men’s clothes and Mr. Browne has always brought his imaginative narrative to the way he showed his clothes.

Like it or not, we are richer because Mr. Browne is taking a risk to entertain us over showing us the clothes he wants to sell. I’d rather be at a Thom Browne show any day than at any other men’s show.