Olivier Theyskens is a fashion designer who has worked with several major houses, including Rochas, Nina Ricci and Theory.
Olivier Theyskens was born to a Belgian chemical engineer and a French homemaker. When he was young, Theyskens desperately wanted to be a girl, and was tormented by the fact that girls "got to be princesses and wear skirts." As a child, Theyskens' parents encouraged him to draw men and women in costumes and were not surprised when at the age of 7 years old, Theyskens proclaimed he wanted to "do haute couture".
In October 1995, aged 18, Olivier Theyskens began attending the prestigious École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de la Cambre to study fashion design, but dropped out in 1997 to start his own label. His first collections were often referred to as "gothic extravaganzas" and were created from bed sheets that his grandmother gave to him. Without sufficient financial support, he was forced to close his label. Despite this, sales of his line were surprisingly strong and as his friend Laetitia Crahay, Chanel's assistant costume jewelry designer, says, "I never worry for Olivier, because I think he's a winner.
Theyskens then progressed to creating stage costumes for the Théâtre de la Monnaie. During this period, he was also designing clothing as a pastime. Theyskens was brought to public attention when one of his dresses was worn by Madonna to the 1998 Academy Awards.
Rochas selected Olivier Theyskens as its creative director in 2002. In March 2003, Theyskens presented his first collection for the House of Rochas. Theyskens, within his first few months, created an "entirely new silhouette for the house" that was French-influenced and elegant. His first full collection, for Fall 2003, was praised by style.com as "ravishing" and "nothing short of magnificent."
For the next several years, Rochas continued to garner praise among fashion critics and to attract loyal followers. Rochas clients included Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Aniston, Kirsten Dunst, Kate Bosworth, Jennifer Lopez, Rachel Weisz and Sarah Jessica Parker. In 2006, the Council of Fashion Designers of America awarded Theyskens the International Award. Theyskens' focus on "demicouture" (pieces too expensive to mass-produce but did not meet the strict couture rules about hand-stitching and numbers of fitting) was questioned by both fashion insiders and businessmen alike, as a viable business strategy. His gowns, some of which were priced upwards of $20,000, were often out of reach for all but the most fabulously wealthy. Theyskens took a purer approach to fashion and did not rely, like many fashion houses, on accessory sales for a reliable source of revenue. Theyskens' refusal to create a marketable accessories line, combined with the fact that he undermined the importance of advertising, contributed to the demise of the House of Rochas. Theyskens claimed to be anti-capitalist in terms of his vision for Rochas, asserting that he wanted to "stop global vulgarity".
In July 2006, Procter & Gamble (Rochas's owner) announced the discontinuation of Rochas's fashion division, shocking many in the fashion industry.
On November 1, 2006 Theyskens became artistic director at Nina Ricci, and his first line debuted in March 2007. Theyskens' first show for the House of Nina Ricci established him as being somewhat wiser in a business perspective. Sarah Mower of style.com, adds "Theyskens is accurately intuiting the fact that fashion needs to address a younger, more casual level of dressing." This is in stark contrast to the couture-like dresses Theyskens was creating for Rochas.
Theyskens' collections for the House of Nina Ricci met with acclaim. "In terms of interest, what he [Theyskens] is doing for day is the thing to watch," affirmed one critic. Theyskens left Nina Ricci in the fall of 2009, replaced by Peter Copping from Louis Vuitton as creative director.
For Spring 2011, Theyskens was tapped by CEO Andrew Rosen to design a capsule collection for Theory. On October 25, the company formally announced Theyskens as artistic director.
Designer 1997 - Present
2006 - 2009
2003 - 2006, Brussels, Belgium