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PARIS — Olivier Theyskens wants to make women look gorgeous.
“Right now, I feel a need to make truly beautiful things,” said the 26-year-old Belgian, who will unveil his first designs for the house of Rochas in a precollection presentation to buyers during the couture shows here next week. “I feel like there’s a lack of that right now.”
Rochas, owned by German cosmetics giant Wella, hired Theyskens last November to replace Peter O’Brien. As artistic director, Theyskens oversees all aspects of design, including the introduction of new shops and accessories, each slated to begin within the next year or so. He also will play a hand in developing new fragrances — and it’s even possible that Rochas will ask him to design a couture collection eventually, too.
Presently, he’s trying to drum up excitement for Rochas’ ready-to-wear, which has lingered in fashion’s hinterlands for years.
Marcel Rochas, the house’s founder, was known for his feminine silhouettes. But when he died in 1955, all fashion operations ceased and the house concentrated on its fragrance business. It was only in 1989, when O’Brien was hired, that the company tried to revive rtw.
Theyskens concedes that few people would be able to conjure an idea of what Rochas fashion represents. “But it’s that lack of baggage that I like,” he said in an interview. “I feel like I’m starting with a blank slate. It’s a strong name. But because there’s no immediate imagery associated with it, I feel like I have more freedom to lay a solid foundation to build upon.”
Theyskens said that he would design for “pretty girls and women who want tasteful clothes. I think a lot about the women I want to dress. The clothes are fresh; they are dressed up; there’s nothing ‘easy wear’ about them. I think Rochas should be an elegant and refined brand.”
Although Theyskens maintained that his own sensibility would come into play, he said Rochas will not resemble the gothic, darkly romantic designs he did under his own name in the past.
“It will be different from what Olivier Theyskens was,” said the designer, who discontinued his critically acclaimed signature collection last year when his backer stopped financing him. “But at the same time, I’m sure that when people look at the designs, they will see something very Theyskens in spirit.”
This story first appeared in the January 16, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The initial Rochas precollection would count some 50 silhouettes, ranging from daywear and knits to cocktail dresses.
“There’s something very couture and delicate in the designs,” he explained. “I’ve closed a lot of doors in order to focus the collection into a coherent whole. And for the moment that’s coming naturally for me. I feel really at home with Rochas.”
Meanwhile, Theyskens reacquired control of his own name and he said that he could eventually relaunch his signature collection. But he put that project on the back burner to concentrate on Rochas.
“I knew Rochas was the right house for me right away,” said Theyskens. “It’s a real challenge. Under my own name, I left certain doors closed. I’ll leave a lot of doors closed at Rochas, too. But I’m eager to explore the beautiful side of fashion.”