By and  on August 30, 2006

PARIS — From Rochas to Ricci.

Less than six weeks after Olivier Theyskens found himself out of a job with the shuttering of the Rochas fashion house, the Belgian design star is zeroing in on a deal to become the creative director of Nina Ricci. This confirms a report in WWD Aug. 23.

According to market sources, the contract could be finalized within a week, putting Theyskens at the helm of another French house with couture roots, a substantial perfume franchise and a fledgling fashion business.

Neither Nina Ricci officials nor the designer could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Theyskens, 29, will succeed Lars Nilsson, who resigned after a three-year stint at Ricci to return to the U.S. It is understood Nilsson is close to securing a new fashion post in New York, but he has declined all comment on his intentions. Nilsson did not return phone calls on Tuesday.

However, Oscar de la Renta executives denied last week that Nilsson is joining the company, despite speculation that is where he is headed.

Meanwhile, Theyskens, whose delicate and ethereal gowns for Rochas made the fashion pack swoon, is likely to be hailed as a strong match for Ricci, a brand synonymous with the innocent and romantic femininity exemplified in photos by David Hamilton, who lensed Ricci campaigns in the Seventies.

Founded in 1932, Ricci was deemed an unlikely house for resurrection when the founding family sold the business in 1997 to Spain's Puig Group. At the time, its ready-to-wear designer was Myriam Schaefer and its couturier Gérard Pipart, a 30-year veteran of the house. (Couture was stopped in 1998.) More recently, James Aguiar and Nathalie Gervais had sought to rev up Ricci's fashion department.

Theyskens likely will show his first collection for Ricci in March for the fall-winter 2007 season. In the wake of Nilsson's exit, announced last week, Ricci said it would not stage a fashion show during Paris Fashion Week in October. However, a spring-summer 2007 collection will be presented to buyers and press, done by the remaining team, which includes studio director Vanessa Bellanger, an alumna of Polo Ralph Lauren and John Galliano.

Since Proctor & Gamble said last month it would close the money-losing Rochas fashion house to concentrate on its profitable fragrance business, the rumor mill has had Theyskens headed to work at such venerable houses as Valentino in Rome and Oscar de la Renta in New York.

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