Alber Elbaz recently took a trip with friends who spent their whole time on their phones, photographing every single burp or wrinkle in their day. He's not the only person who has been struck by the difference between looking and seeing in our culture, but he is one of the only people with a major Parisian fashion house through which he can shape a response. Which is what Elbaz claimed Lanvin's new men's collection was. "Once, designers would go to Africa for inspiration. Now they Google Africa. So this season there were no virtual trips for us. No Google. It wasn't how it looked in a photo, but how it felt on the boys."
Bringing Lanvin back to luxury, rescuing it from fashion: that was the challenge Elbaz and Lucas Ossendrijver insisted they'd set themselves. It sounded a hell of a lot like fashion to us when Ossendrijver detailed such signifiers as a new suit in the form of a viscose silk jogging outfit, or a new silhouette in the form of a very fitted three-button jacket. But the word that Elbaz and Ossendrijver preferred was "relevance," and its retail handmaiden "options." The collection was distinctive for its range. So distinctive, in fact, that this felt like the Lanvin collection for people who've never really got the label before. That jogging outfit, for instance. Call it a suit and it goes anywhere.
This has been a very graphic season—flowers blossoming furiously everywhere—but Lanvin was contrary. "Nothing techno or digital," said Elbaz. Instead of print, there was texture. The last outfits were a collage of touch. "A new way of being elegant" was the way that Ossendrijver defined the sensuality of such pieces. Likewise the absence of ties and, often, shirts. But the gloriously oversized coats were more than adequate compensation, even as they helped to confirm another of the season's trends. The elusiveness of summer in London and Paris means that seasonless dressing is, at the very least, the most sensible option in these environmentally troubled times.