PARIS — Olivier Theyskens and Nina Ricci are officially divorced, WWD has learned.

In a joint statement, the designer and Ricci said Theyskens exited the French fashion house on March 10, ahead of the expiration of his contract in October.

This story first appeared in the March 16, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Ricci “wishes to re-orientate its development strategy for the years to come,” the statement said. “Consequently, Nina Ricci and its artistic director Olivier Theyksens have decided by mutual agreement to cease their collaboration.”

There was no mention of design succession at Ricci, but the separation should pave the way for the arrival of Peter Copping who, as reported in WWD Jan. 28, is to join Ricci as creative director from his current post as a top design deputy to Marc Jacobs at Louis Vuitton.

Neither Theyskens nor Ricci would comment beyond the statement, a quiet denouement to a two-year partnership marked by torrents of editorial acclaim, weak commercial success and, more recently, signs of discord between a wunderkind designer and a brand owner keen to bring its fashion house up to the level of success of its perfume business. Spain’s Puig Group owns Ricci, as well as the fashion houses Carolina Herrera and Paco Rabanne.

In anticipation of a separation announcement, speculation about Theyskens’ next move was a hot topic during Paris Fashion Week, which wound up last week.

Sources ruled out the possibility — touted in some editor circles — of a design role at Schiaparelli, a dormant brand owned by Tod’s Diego Della Valle that is not slated for revival until 2010 at the earliest. Della Valle has denied conducting a design search for Schiaparelli, a mythic name in fashion synonymous with surrealism and shocking pink.

As reported, Theyskens owns the rights to his trademark and is said to be mulling a relaunch of his signature label.

Brussels-born Theyskens, who catapulted to fame at age 21 when Madonna wore his black satin hook-and-eye gown to the Oscars in 1998, put his signature brand on hiatus when he joined Rochas in 2003. His reign there, marked by critical acclaim, ended when owner Procter & Gamble Co. shuttered the money-losing fashion house to concentrate on fragrance. (Rochas ready-to-wear has since been licensed to Italy’s Gibò Co. SpA and debuted its first collection, by designer Marco Zannini, during Paris Fashion Week.)

Theyskens’ final runway collection for Ricci — paraded last week on a sandpaperlike runway, his models perched on stilt-like shoes — was viewed as a creative kiss-off to Ricci management and a defiant statement of his Goth leanings versus the romantic and ethereal image of the Ricci brand.

The Ricci label is sold in about 200 doors worldwide, including about 50 in the U.S. During Theyskens’ tenure, he unveiled a bright, dove-gray boutique concept for the brand’s flagship on the Avenue Montaigne, and forged an alliance with actress Reese Witherspoon for red-carpet dressing.

Before Theyskens, Lars Nilsson was the designer of Ricci for three years, during which time rtw sales doubled. Prior to that, James Aguiar and Nathalie Gervais had design stints at the couture house, which was founded in 1932 and is famed for its perennial fragrance, L’Air du Temps.


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