The longtime friends met to discuss the craft of fashion and creating a place of one's own.
Dutch born designer Lucas Ossendrijver did a tour of duty in fashion that began at the Fashion Institute Arnhem—the same school that produced Viktor & Rolf—before stints at Kenzo, Kostas Murkudis, and Dior Homme under the direction of Hedi Slimane, landing at the helm of menswear at Lanvin in 2006. Known for his penchant for research and for mixing the rugged with the refined, Ossendrijver launched a now iconic sneaker at France’s oldest extant fashion house. The designer constantly thinks about his craft, and after a decade at the house, Ossendrijver still manages to shake things up; he spraydyes jackets, creates creases, and adds a bit of slouch, which bring his clothes closer to reality than those of Lanvin’s perfectly pressed and tailored counterparts. Ossendrijver’s designs are not mere decorations; they are intended to be lived in.
Like Ossendrijver’s work, Oscar Tuazon’s art is not meant for simple observation, but rather, as an environmental experience. So it is fitting that the two became friends while they were both living in Paris. Tuazon, who now lives in Los Angeles, often combines industrial and natural materials to transform the experience of a building or site, and the do it yourself sensibility of his work pushes the limits of objects and architecture: wood beams transform structural frames, and trees adjoin cement forms. For a recent solo show at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the artist cut a hole through the wall in the lobby’s gallery, attaching a large aluminum pipe to it. The circular object extended out to the building’s glass exterior, so that visitors could walk right up to the outside and passersby could peer in. The approach embodied Tuazon’s response to a Los Feliz neighborhood monument to William Mulholland, the engineer instrumental to Los Angeles’s massive aqueduct system.
The pair recently caught up to speak about the artist’s new land in the Olympic rainforest in Washington, the problem of functionality in art and fashion, and Ossendrijver’s 10 year anniversary at Lanvin.
Lucas Ossendrijver—Hi Oscar, how are you? It’s really hot here. It’s like a heat wave in Paris at the moment.
Oscar Tuazon—I’m good. I’ve had a long summer. I have my cabin in the woods; I’ve been cutting trees.
Lucas—Oh yeah? Whereabouts?
Oscar—It’s in Washington State, up on the Olympic Peninsula, in the middle of the forest.
Lucas—Is it for work?
Oscar—Well, I don’t know. It’s not quite work. I guess it might be someday, but at the moment, it’s a good place to go and think. I’m with the family. They love it up here. It’s been four years that we’ve had the place. We bought a piece of property and it had this small garage and a room attached. Since then, we’ve been slowly improving it. Now we have running water.
Lucas—You’re kind of doing up the place?
Oscar—Slowly, yeah. Making it livable.
“Menswear, in the end, is about working around a lot of constrictions; the vocabulary is usually limited to the shirt, the jacket, the pant and so on… so to find your own language within those boundaries is the real challenge.”
Oscar—Exactly. It’s really like making a space, you know. In the very beginning, it was just a big empty room. It had one wall in it that I took out. We installed an inside stove, and made a kind of kitchen and water system. It rains very constantly, so we have a huge, 14,000 gallon tank that collects the water. We run it through a filter. I haven’t done anything architectural in the space at all, actually. I’ve just left it open. That’s the beauty of it, to make that space. Now I’m going around cutting trees [laughs], making a different kind of space in the landscape. Making a space to move through.
Lucas—Like a space within an environment; a space within a space.
Oscar—Yeah. It’s five acres, and it’s all wooded with pretty big trees.
Lucas—It sounds interesting. I’m kind of trying to envision it because I don’t know the area. It seems a little bit mysterious. What I remember from your apartment in Paris was that you basically did everything. You redid the space. Is it really important for you to live somewhere that you can really control in a way? That you actually create?
Oscar—That’s how I try to work: to go in and create a living situation inside of another space. This year is your 10 year anniversary at Lanvin. I imagine it must be difficult to continue to come up with new ideas every year, especially with the speed of fashion. How do you do it?
Lucas—Men’s fashion has developed at an incredible pace since I started. We used to do just two collections a year. Now [it’s] four, and the demands are much higher since there is fierce competition. It’s something I don’t want to complain about—it’s just the way it is. As a designer, you have to deal with it. It forces you to be more precise and focused on what you do. You cannot afford to be mediocre. The only way for me to deal with this pressure is to be as creative as possible, and to give as much as possible. The difficulty is to find the right balance between the desire to experiment and the will to make clothes that are believable; clothes that people can relate to and can wear. Desirability is key. Have you ever thought about fashion? About clothes? Is that ever something that’s on your mind?
Oscar—Well first, you know, living in Paris, I was constantly thinking about fashion, but in terms of making clothes, I don’t know. No, I guess. I haven’t really thought about that.
Lucas—When I think about what I do, I never feel like I’m designing or that I’m a designer. I really don’t like the word. I don’t like the meaning of the word, but I really like the craft. I really like the making of the clothes—that you actually do something with your hands. To learn the craft and to learn how things are made, for me, was very important. That’s something that really drew me into fashion. I didn’t really know what fashion was until I was able to make clothes. It’s that sense of having to know how to do things yourself in order to create. Is there a similar need for you?
Oscar—Yeah, definitely. There’s a compulsion to try and express something just by being able to make it with your hands and understanding that process of construction.
“You have to seduce people, you have to make new things and get people excited.”
Lucas—So you never thought about making clothes. [Laughs.] What do you wear when you work? Do you have some kind of uniform?
Oscar—No. [Laughs.] I know a lot of artists have made uniforms, and I don’t have anything against that. For me, the most important part of clothes is their insides. Do you know what I mean? The inside of the suit. I work alone, so the idea of having a uniform—it would just be for myself. That interior space of the clothes is interesting for me to think about. The connection would be through furniture and how you have to kind of…designing a chair is a difficult process. It requires you to move your body and think about your body and to pose yourself more than it does drawing. I understand that process of physically translating the movements of my body into…
Oscar—Yeah. Into physical objects, a form. So that, as you’re thinking about clothes, you’re thinking about…
Lucas—Well, with clothes you always have to deal with the body. It’s very restrictive, actually. It’s not an architectural shape; it has to do with the body, it has to be worn, and it has to be functional. It has to keep you warm or keep you cold. Menswear, in the end, is about working around a lot of constrictions; the vocabulary is usually limited to the shirt, the jacket, the pant and so on… so to find your own language within those boundaries is the real challenge.
Oscar—How do you get around these constraints?
Lucas—When working on a collection it is important for me to almost erase all direct references to the idea from the beginning, so that when you look at the [finished] garment it exists by itself and is not too referential. Sometimes people find it difficult to read into it, they prefer direct visual references, but I don’t care about that. My work is not about visual references; it’s about construction and detail. I don’t see myself as a decorator. It’s not really my thing, but at the same time, the functionality can also kill a lot of ideas and kill creativity. It’s always a kind of strange contradiction. What is also typical of fashion that is very contradictory is the making of disposable clothes so that people can buy new ones. Actually, it’s quite weird. It’s a system. But what I do like is that it’s kind of a free space at the same time. You have to seduce people, you have to make new things and get people excited. But sometimes it’s like, why change? Why should people buy new things? Sometimes I really don’t know. [Laughs.]
Oscar—Right, and in a weird way, it comes back to that: the real question of function. But I think the constraints of functionality in designing a piece of clothing or designing a chair are ultimately kind of a dead end.
Lucas—It’s very essential, because it forces you to think about the function of what you’re doing and why you’re actually doing certain things. It’s always a question. I was just going to ask you: Does it bother you that what you make is in itself almost a useless object? That it’s something that doesn’t necessarily have to have a use? Or that it has a specific use but that the use is not for people? That it’s something they’re attracted to, but that it’s not, like, a functional object?
Oscar—The frustration that I feel stems from the way that an object is protected or presented as an artwork, which prevents it from acting on and influencing the world, because it’s kind of hard to touch. In that sense, when you’re making clothes, they are objects that are in physical contact with people who are wearing them. I have a kind of magical overestimation of what the powers of an object really are. If I’m frustrated with what an artwork can do, it’s because it doesn’t reach enough people and it doesn’t touch enough people and it can’t create real action in the world. And, somehow, there’s the sense that—I don’t know—I start to think about designing a tent, which, in a way, is kind of where.
This conversation was featured in Document’s Fall/Winter 2016 issue.