A bold and intriguing design talent, in his comparatively short career Olivier Theyskens has headed two Parisian fashion houses and founded and closed his own label. Most recently he was the creative director of Theory, having initially launched a capsule collection entitled Theysken’s Theory with the contemporary label, founded by Andrew Rosen and now owned by Fast Retailing.
He exited the brand in June 2014, showing his final collection for the label — Spring/Summer 2015 — in September.
Theyskens told Out of Order magazine that as a child he loved playing with clothes and fabrics. “I loved beautiful things, beautiful clothes. I loved to dress in costumes. I remember, at the time, saying I wanted to be a girl because I loved princesses. I loved to look at the female characters of any movies. I was very attracted by that. I always felt women could incarnate a really fascinating mystery for me. From Hollywood to the 1980s military hero girls, I always saw girls as these amazing figures. I always admired these figures.”
Theyskens attended 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 contemporaneously described 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.
Theyskens then began creating stage costumes for the Théâtre de la Monnaie. He was brought to the wider public’s attention when, in 1998, Madonna wore one of his dresses to the Academy Awards.
Rochas appointed Theyskens as its creative director in 2002. In March 2003 Theyskens presented his first collection for the house. His first full collection, for A/W 2003, was praised by Style.com as "ravishing" and "nothing short of magnificent." However, Theysken’s focus on demi-couture was questioned in business circles as a viable model for the house. In an unexpected announcement Procter & Gamble, Rochas's owner, announced the discontinuation of Rochas's fashion division in July 2006.
In November that same year, Theyskens became artistic director of Nina Ricci; his first collection debuted in 2007. Sarah Mower of Style.com wrote, "Theyskens is accurately intuiting the fact that fashion needs to address a younger, more casual level of dressing."
Theyskens left Nina Ricci in 2011, and in the same year took the role of creative director of Theory’s new upscale contemporary line Theysken’s Theory, which he left in 2014.