PARIS, France — He is loved. The crowd clapped long and hard for Olivier Theyskens at the end of his show. But it’s like any cult performer who inspires unquestioning ardour. Could be Dead Can Dance. Could be Cocteau Twins. And I choose those bands because they fit into the romantic/gothic zone in which Theyskens has floated for twenty years. Twenty? His preternatural youthful looks would deny such a number. But the clothes he showed wouldn’t.
The recent Theyskens retrospective at Antwerp’s ModeMuseum was titled She Walks in Beauty. She couldn’t walk in anything approaching that in his latest show. Theyskens’s models lumbered atop Frankenstein platforms, in a curiously self-defeating gesture. The clothes were the languid, sinuous, arcane stuff he’s known for — black, black, more black — but he allowed himself some more overt slink: a bias-cut sheath of absinthe velvet, for example, the drop of poison in his insistence of newness.
But is newness something that Olivier Theyskens is even interested in projecting? Like most of the Belgian designers, his clothes are either something you love — or you don’t. Nothing will change that.