Olivier Theyskens

PARIS — “Me being from Brussels, when I visited the space, I felt that it really somehow connected with me,” said Olivier Theyskens surrounded by boxes in his enchanting new Paris digs, located on the last story of the storied Hôtel de Bourrienne, a hôtel particulier from the Directory period in Paris’ 10th arrondissement.

Fitted with William Morris-style patterned wallpaper, dark wood paneling and original light fittings and tiles, the floor was added during the Art Nouveau period, he explained. Measuring around 3,000 square feet, the transporting space houses a studio and several offices.

The designer on March 1 will present his latest show on the ground floor of the building which, as a protected site, is still undergoing its careful restoration under owner, French entrepreneur Charles Beigbeder who plans to fill the site with start-ups. “It’s a work in progress, it’s exciting that the place is going to evolve,” said Theyskens.

“It’s weird, I somehow recognize myself in this vibe,” added the designer, perched on a bench in front of a mural of an old port in the entrance to his tiny old world office, accessible through a tiny corridor. Once fully moved in, it’s here that he can imagine coming to sketch, using his iPad. Nearby, in the makeshift studio in the wallpapered main room, which this season will also serve as the showroom, members of the team were working on the collection, bathed in a golden light. “There were, like, 20 layers of paint covering that wallpaper,” Theyskens said.

Previously based in Paris’ Marais district, Theyskens said he had to move in order to grow the team. “I think there’s always a moment where, if you think you’re going to get stuck in a certain spot, it’s important to find solutions and move on,” he said. Starting this season, “more people will be involved,” including more agents, with a focus on growing the Japanese, Chinese, European and U.S. markets.

Theyskens created his namesake line in 1997 but put it on hold to focus on creative director positions at Rochas and Nina Ricci, from 2003 to 2006 and 2006 to 2009 respectively, followed by a three-and-a-half-year stint at American sportswear label Theory from 2010. He relaunched it in 2016.

One of the most acclaimed designers of his generation, known for his poetic vision and emotionally charged, theatrical runway shows, Theyskens throughout his career has also experienced his fair share of flak, including gaining a reputation as a purveyor of overpriced demi-couture gowns for a couture elite.

For his own line, taking the time to establish the brand’s core product, focusing the attention on the quality of the clothes, manufacturing and service, was essential.

“I approached this brand as a start-up. We’ve seen constant growth of 30 to 40 percent each season, and I think we have the potential to do way more,” he said.

The brand’s luxury ready-to-wear positioning includes elevated showpieces, but Theyskens is also strengthening the entry-level offer — knitwear, T-shirts, shirting, dresses and denim.  The label is distributed in around 45 high-end stores worldwide.

Couture, he said, is too time intensive, although he has created some one-of-a-kind bridal dresses with a full couture service for a handful of clients. “If there’s a special piece that needs to be done by hand, we find a way, though when it comes to creating custom products, I think it’s a bit early,” said the designer. Ditto for men’s, he said, even if “some of my pieces are worn by men: some of my pants, the way I cut my tailored jackets, some of the knitwear.”

“I always have these two sides; men’s wear is never far from the androgynous side of my girl which coexists with this ultra feminine side,” he added.

The shoe line has been developed for this season, and jewelry is being introduced. The designer is also working on various undisclosed collaborations around the accessories sector for the year to come. “I have the capacity to work with experts in that field, without creating a department for that,” he said.

“I now feel people understand us more. When buyers come, they know what they can expect to see, there’s a different dialogue compared to in the beginning. It’s become like a ‘rendez-vous,’ which changes things,” said the designer who in June will open an exhibition at the Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais, in the North of France.

Dubbed “In Praesentia,” the show will play out as a conversation between pieces from across the designer’s collections, as well as never-before-seen creations, and the museum’s collection.

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