In his 14-year-long stretch at the helm of French fashion house Lanvin, Lucas Ossendrijver helped change the way we dress. The Dutch designer is part of the reason dressing down is the new dressing up, as he set into motion a new, relaxed vision of formality. And now, after leaving the maison back in 2018, he’s back to hammer home that message at Theory – the NYC label best known for its pared-back approach to style.

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Launching this season comes a brand new capsule collection, across which Ossendrijver lends his often-imitated, never-bettered touch. There’s slick, utilitarian outerwear, soft tailored styles designed to take you from your desk to the latest nightspot du jour, and plenty of comfy separates that will fit seamlessly into existing wardrobes. Best of all, Theory’s AW22 offering sees the creative turn his hand to womenswear – perhaps shockingly – for the first time ever. “Designing womenswear offers many possibilities,” he reveals. “The vocabulary is wider, and it was fun designing dresses for the first time.” 

Now, in celebration of Ossendrijver’s first Theory capsule hitting the shelves, it lands in the pages of Dazed’s latest issue in a very special editorial. Captured by Paulo Almeida, with styling by George Krakowiak, the offering is brought to life on misty moors at the crack of dawn. The soft-focus backdrop provides a stark contrast to the clean lines and understated palette of the collection, with the pieces featured practically leaping from the page.

Hey Lucas! So first off all, how did the partnership with Theory come about, and what do you love about the brand? 

Lucas Ossenrdrijver: I’ve always liked Theory and felt close to the design philosophy – purposeful clothes that are both functional and well designed. Clothing that doesn’t scream ‘fashion’ but helps people function in their lives, while feeling good about themselves, so when I got approached to do a collaboration I thought it was a great opportunity. And of course the possibility to design men’s and womenswear at the same time was what drew me in. Something that felt new and exciting to me. This is the first time I designed a women’s collection.

What does the brand represent to you?

Lucas Ossenrdrijver: For me Theory is very much about New York, and a certain lifestyle – people are constantly moving and going places and Theory’s clothes are there to help them do just that. I think it also implies that the clothes we wear have to be flexible: literally speaking you have to be able to move, but also figuratively speaking, moving from one event to another, like the office to the theatre, or dinner. We don’t go home and change all the time anymore, and you don’t want to feel over or underdressed. In New York, I always feel a sense of purpose. People are always going places, and their attitude and the way they dress reflects this. The styling is a mix that feels accidental and blurs categories. It’s the unexpected element that inspires me.

Who is the person that wears theory? Do you have someone in mind when designing?

Lucas Ossenrdrijver: For this capsule I just thought about wardrobe staples that I thought were relevant for today, and how to make them interesting and feel fresh. There’s not one ideal customer – I thought more about a variety of characters, different people with different needs. I conceived this collection as a wardrobe of individual pieces, for people to mix and match, and make their own. I also like to combine various volumes and shapes to create different options in silhouettes. In that sense it’s not a linear proposition but options that people can choose from to create looks that suit their lifestyle.

“Who would I love to see wearing this collection? Frank Ocean! But also regular guys and girls in the street. I’m always surprised and flattered when I see somebody wearing clothes I designed, whether it’s a total look or an individual piece” – Lucas Ossendrijver

Tell me a bit about this collection – what were you inspired by or thinking about?

Lucas Ossenrdrijver: When I started to think about the collection, functionality was one of the most important things that came to mind. It’s not about a big runway statement, just about functional, well designed, urban clothes. Quite humble in a way. I found that idea very appealing and relevant for now. It’s about empowering people and making garments that improve their life and making them feel good about themselves, and that help them get on with their lives. We’re not talking about a collection just made for the runway, or for an editorial image, but about a real product that is going to be in a lot of stores.

Theory is also a brand where men’s and women’s aren’t that different in spirit, and I also like the idea that there’s a strong link between both. Some pieces are almost unisex – though, of course, the proportions differ slightly. Designing womenswear offers many possibilities. The vocabulary is wider, and it was fun designing dresses for the first time. I’ve always been very interested in the construction of garments, how they are made, and how to change and improve. It’s actually the reason I got interested in fashion. In that sense, I’m more of an architect than a decorator.

Where do you seek inspiration more generally? What was the last thing that made you feel really inspired?

Lucas Ossenrdrijver: I love going to exhibitions and galleries but often it’s not a direct influence on my design process. Sometimes things just sort of stay and linger in the back of your head. My design process is completely intuitive, I just like some things more than others at a certain time. I do look at how people dress on the street, but that’s not a guideline for designing. I love walking around on off-days, cycling, and gardening. Contemporary dance I find very inspiring. Even moments of boredom can be very productive: your mind wanders off and ideas come up. It’s the unexpected that inspires me most. 

Can you pull out any key pieces from the offering, or perhaps something that sums it all up?

Lucas Ossenrdrijver: I love tailoring because of the precision it requires. There’s a men’s jacket in this collection that is very softly constructed – an almost erased, soft shoulder line, a slightly boxy fit, but not too big, and it’s completely unlined. Because it’s made with gabardine with a touch of stretch, it feels as comfortable as a cardigan when you wear it. It really enables you to move. I think there’s nothing worse than feeling constricted by the clothes you’re wearing, being at ease and comfortable has become much more important, but that shouldn’t mean we can’t look composed or elegant at the same time. That’s the challenge.

My favourite piece from the collection is a technical bonded parka. It’s a piece I’ll definitely wear. The shape is nice and round, it has an interesting sleeve construction, and lots of pockets. It’s unlined, and thus light, with taped seams on the inside. Really well done. As beautiful on the inside as the outside. There’s one version in all black, and one in colour blocking.

Who would you love to see wearing it?

Lucas Ossenrdrijver: Frank Ocean! But also regular guys and girls in the street. I’m always surprised and flattered when I see somebody wearing clothes I designed, whether it’s a total look or an individual piece. Especially when it’s from older seasons – it’s touching to see because it means that that person is attached to the piece and keeps wearing it. It has gotten an emotional value somehow. The most rewarding thing for me is to accidentally see someone in the street wearing something, no special occasion or place, just someone going on with their life. It always makes me wonder who he or she is and where that person is going. In the end, it’s also the biggest compliment for a designer to actually see your clothes being worn on the street, and not only in a fashion magazine.

“I love walking around on off-days, cycling, and gardening. Contemporary dance I find very inspiring. Even moments of boredom can be very productive: your mind wanders off and ideas come up. It’s the unexpected that inspires me most” – Lucas Ossendrijver

How do you feel about fashion at the moment? 

Lucas Ossenrdrijver: Stepping back for a while made me realise that the one thing that doesn’t change is my love for fashion and clothes. The speed of fashion, and the way we consume has changed a lot. Today is a very different world. It means we have an attention span that is much shorter than before, we switch constantly from one thing to the next, and sometimes in fashion we tend to forget the customer in the end, I think. Our lifestyle has changed so much over the last decade, I think it has just become more and more casual. Boundaries between home and work have become blurred, and comfort is more and more important. 

Blending casual and formal has always been part of my vocabulary, it’s what I’m known for. You still want to look composed when you go somewhere, but not too formal. I’ve always been inspired by things that are not 100 per cent clear – things that exist in the space ‘in between’ formal and casual, for example. The way people live now, clothes have to be functional and adapt to your lifestyle. I like this idea of fluidity and ease, which applies to both men and women in this collection.

Another important positive development is the awareness around sustainability. To me, sustainability isn’t just materials, it’s good design practice and considering every choice that you make – the fabric you choose, the colour you choose. It’s taking into account things that matter today and making a choice that is thoughtful. We try to do the best we can, but there’s always room to improve.

Shop the collection here.