THIMISTER BACK IN ACTION
Byline: Miles Socha
PARIS — In the middle of Josephus Thimister’s minimally furnished apartment, all white walls and black velvet cushions, stands a full-size Bengalese tiger, meticulously mounted in a mid-stride stance. With its wide eyes and the hint of a snarl, it looks as if it is ready to pounce.
It can be said that Thimister is in a similar professional posture.
After a difficult year in which he shut down his French fashion house and skipped a season, the Paris-based designer is jumping back into the fray, eyes open and fully aware of the perils involved. His runway show is scheduled for March 11 during the Paris ready-to-wear shows.
“I feel very positive and very energetic about it,” he said in an interview at his apartment, which will also serve as the showroom for the line, just as in the early days. “I have that feeling that I have more power. Before, I felt that I was running after my own shadow.”
Thimister, 38, launched his signature collection in 1997 after a five-year tenure at Balenciaga. His bias-cut crepe evening dresses earned him quick acclaim and prompted an invitation by the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture to show a couture collection, which he did for three seasons.
But ultimately, Thimister fell victim to a familiar conundrum for self-financed designers: too much overhead and not enough capital. Genny, for whom he has designed since 1998, produced and delivered his fall 2000 line following the shutdown of the business, but he sat out spring 2001.
That wasn’t easy for someone who said he’s been infected with the “fashion virus” since the age of four. “Fashion is in the blood,” he said. “In a way, you just have to do it.”
Still, Thimister said he does not plan to fall into the same traps as when he first launched his house. For his fall 2001 collection, he plans to keep a bare-bones staff, delegating production and shipping responsibilities to Genny and sales and sales service to AECC, a Paris-based firm that also distributes the collection of Marcel Marongiu.
Thimister said he has a more realistic, focused approach to the business now.
“In the end, it’s clothes and they have to sell and they have to be delivered to stores on time in order to sell,” he said. “The poetry and roughness, it will all be there. It will be very easy to recognize the Thimister hand, but at the same time it will be more product. It will be more directional and easy to sell.”
Thimister has sold his collection to some of the top specialty stores in the world, including Linda Dresner, Joyce, Barneys New York, Takashimaya, Kirna Zabete, Neiman Marcus and Jeffrey. The stores greeted news of a comeback with enthusiasm.
“I’m glad,” said Linda Dresner, who has stores in New York and Birmingham, Mich. “He has an exciting vision and his own story to tell. We love his clothes. They’re very sophisticated and very cool. We need a little poetry.”
Thimister said he plans to emphasize knits and leathers in his fall collection, with which Genny has substantial manufacturing finesse. But the collection will also be more complete, with bags, belts and accessories.
“It’s more like a corner idea,” he said. “Before it was more of a couture way of working. Now it’s less intellectual and maybe less pretentious.”
Thimister said his experience working at Genny with Donatella Girombelli has taught him that there is a way to translate his convictions — delicate colors, rough textures, handmade details — into salable clothing.
“I don’t see myself as a createur anymore,” he said. “It’s about clothes. They can be very modern and very today, but they should still go into a system of selling, and ideally, a growing system.”