Josephus Thimister, an edgy Dutch designer and couturier perhaps best known for his stint at Balenciaga in the Nineties, has died, multiple sources told WWD late Wednesday.
Details about the place and cause of death could not immediately be learned. It is understood a ceremony is planned.
“It is with sadness that The Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode has learned the passing away of Josephus Thimister [1962-2019], whose avant-garde style, elegance and skills in cutting have, for many years, contributed to the creative momentum in Paris,” the French fashion’s governing body said in a statement.
Federation president Ralph Toledano recounted how Thimister caught the attention of Karl Lagerfeld via a young designer competition in Belgium, and he would visit the studio often, always bearing a gift: a box of Belgian chocolates.
“We became great friends. He was an adorable person with a great sense of humor, always self-deprecating,” Toledano, then president of Lagerfeld, recalled.
Fashion publicist Marion Greenberg recalled Wednesday meeting Thimister through their mutual friend Andre Leon Talley, who was working at Vogue at that time. The designer was in search of PR representation, since he wanted to build his business in the U.S. Greenberg first met Thimister at his Paris apartment on the Rue Fabert.
“I did not know what to expect, when I walked into his stunning space and was faced by his collection of taxidermy; I believe he had a polar bear and a tiger!“ she said. “I was so startled. But it left me with a strong impression of someone, who was a true non-conformist, as well as a unique individual, who was also a bit mischievous in the best way. We clicked immediately. He was one of the most talented and visionary designers of his time.”
Greenberg added, “I felt so fortunate to have worked with him and I wished he would have been able to continue with his company. He had a sparkle in his eye and had a truly generous soul. I adored him. He will always be remembered and deeply missed.”
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, he designed for Balenciaga from 1992 to 1997, passing the baton to then unknown Nicolas Ghesquière.
Known for his cutting skill, and penchant for the severe and eerie, Thimister proceeded in 1997 to launch his own couture and ready-to-wear brand. He did fashion shows off and on until about 2011, and had a flair for theatrical flourishes and peerless constructions.
According to the thumbnail biography composed by his longtime public relations firm 2ème Bureau in Paris, Thimister worked briefly in Lagerfeld’s studio and also alongside Jean Patou before joining Balenciaga. He also acted as an art director for the Italian label Genny, and from 2005 to 2007 for Charles Jourdan.
“The creations of Thimister possess a certain lightness and poetry, which creates an elegance devoid of any vanity,” the biography reads. It also cites his use of unconventional materials.
Critics described his clothes variously as raw, bleak, austere and fiercely individual.