Olivier Theyskens Already Has Three or Four New Collections Sketched

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Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Despite the perceived paramount importance of the need to see and be seen in the fashion industry, designer Olivier Theyskens hasn't been concerned with that since he was fired by Nina Ricci after his spectacular fall 2009 collection. He hasn't been going to parties, reading fashion magazines, or even looking at the collections of his peers. Rather, he's enjoying being a normal person.


"Actually, I was thinking, oh, you should see on the Net what was going on," he says. "But I didn't. It makes me think that normal people — 99% of the people — don't run to the Net to see what's happening [on the runways]."

But he's not giving it all up to be a hippie in a far-flung place like Bali, where he might help a poor woman buy a house, and find true love like Elizabeth Gilbert. He has a book coming out, published by Assouline, featuring photographs of his work by Julien Claessens. And he's been job hunting.


As Mr. Theyskens searches for a new label, he says he has been creating imaginary collections in his notebooks. Three or four are completely ready to go—down to the chosen fabrics, plans, "everything."

When asked about the idea of creating his own label, he says, "Oh God. … That's for sure, I have always thought [about] it." Still, he notes, 2009 wasn't a bad year to be on the sidelines, with its economic tumult and dire straits.

Knowing that he has three or four collections conceived makes the heart race a bit. How can he top his fall 2009 runway extravaganza for Nina Ricci? In truth, he might not be able to if he wants to sell clothes. He lost his job at Ricci because his collections, though beautiful and critically acclaimed, didn't sell. Retailers couldn't find anyone to buy his $2,000 blouses.


"He cut for somebody that was tall and very thin. It didn't fit women who could afford clothes of that caliber," says Karen Daskas, owner of the Tender Birmingham boutique near Detroit. There, the designer's final collection for Nina Ricci has been marked down to 60% off. "I can't give it away," she says. "And we try it on everybody."

That's the thing about fashion: Though designers hole up in Paris being fabulous all day, someone in Detroit still has money to spend on their stuff, and those people — in addition to models and celebrities and other pin-thin fashion folk — must be courted. Theyskens disagrees with the criticism:


Mr. Theyskens says the criticism that his clothes sold poorly because they cost too much is "legend" but untrue. He also says the production department controlled fit issues using "strict measurement scales supposedly corresponding to the sector."

Before he landed at Ricci, Theyskens designed for Rochas, which was shuttered in 2006. Critics loved his work there, but retailers said the clothes were too expensive. The Wall Street Journal calls him "fashion's version of My So-Called Life — the TV show that was simultaneously applauded and canceled." If Claire Danes picked herself up again, Theyskens sure can, too. Fashion investment consultant Robert Burke thinks Theyskens could have a successful namesake label with a business model like Alexander McQueen's: Stage crazy runway shows for marketing and make money off less insane, wearable pre-collections.

Art Couture: Theyskens' Next Act [WSJ]