I Love Olivier Theyskens
I barely made it to the French Alliance on Friday night. After waiting for an F train that never came and literally running through 5th Avenue like a madwoman, I took my seat in the auditorium to the sweet sounds of Olivier's voice. Dressed in reddish canvas pants, an old (or old-looking) grey t-shirt and scruffy boots, and sitting in a very relaxed manner on his chair, he was exactly the way I imagined.
The event was moderated by Pamela Golbin, who is the Curator of Twentieth-century and Contemporary Fashion at the Musée de la Mode et du Textile in Paris. The first half of the night was a little repetitive if only because she asked the same questions that every person that interviews him ever asks, so in a way it was a bit about his history and not so much the way he views things the way the talk with Alber Elbaz was. This is not to say that Olivier wasn't charming or that the night was boring. He has a very distinct sense of humor and was very direct and concise in his answers which was great and also created some pretty funny awkward silences. He talked about his decision to leave La Cambre, and how it was an impulsive reaction to the environment because he just felt he had to leave and work on his own thing without wasting any time. He created his first collection with materials he had been given and collecting since his childhood and mentioned that a few of his parents' blankets made it into the collection as well. He explained that the "dark beauty" sensibility that he was known for in his early days had come as a conscious reaction to the style he had been doing (presumably) at college; which I think was quintessential 80's style. I would love to see those drawings, I can't even imagine what Olivier-doing-the-80's would look like.
Some of my favorite quotes of the night where regarding his namesake collection. Pamela talked about how his clothes were often described as goth, he laughed and said that he didn't know much about street fashion so that when they mentioned goth to him, the first thing he thought about was cathedrals. A bit later Pamela asked him what it felt like to see Madonna wearing his dress. His response? "Ok". The crowd lost it there and we all just laughed heartily, he then said "other people were hysterical, I was ok. I mean, it is always nice to see someone wearing your clothes". To me, this moment perfectly captured the essence of Olivier, and I dare to say that it shows that he is a very grounded person with no illusions of grandeur. This is why he can make gowns out of dreams and be loved by the fashion big-wigs.
He talked at length about the process of designing a collection and his inspirations. Ideally, he likes to start each collection by sketching, and he keeps no inspiration board or images around since he feels that it becomes like a prison and makes it harder to be open to the change of ideas or direction which is why he also works in the fittings with the modelistes and with the garments since the clothes have an energy that becomes inspiration for other things down the line. He doesn't always listen to music, but not for the obvious reasons; for example, Alber Elbaz had said that he didn't listen to music because it influenced what he did too much, i.e. draws leather when he listens to rock music or whatever, but Olivier said that he had been listening to 16th Century music when designing his Spring 2008 collection which was really about girls coming back home in the morning from an all night rave or show.
Another cute moment in the show came when Pamela pointed out how everyone in the fashion industry suffered and was freaking out when Rochas closed, and he just laughed, as if to say, they were worried, but I knew something else would come up. He is definitely very self assured, but not cocky and that's probably part of his charm. He laughed a lot throughout the night, a hearty young laugh that's honest and comes from the heart. Olivier talked at length about the importance of fabric and how that is one of the reasons why being a designer today is better than being a designer 50 years ago, when looking at all his collections in the past decade, it certainly makes sense, as fabric has always played a starring role in his work.
After Pamela was done, they opened the floor to questions from the audience. He paid full attention to everyone who asked him and was very charming in fielding answers to every question (including "Can I have an internship?") and working around weird possibly drunk people (loud blonde lady in audience: "I LOVE SHOES. DO YOU DESIGN THEM? WHERE DO YOU MAKE THEM? WHATS GOING ON WITH YOU? I MEAN, YOU'RE AT ROCHAS, YOU'RE AT NINA RICCI, I DON'T GET IT, WHAT'S GOING ON THERE?" Answer: Nina Ricci shoes are made in Italy, near Venice, and yes, he designs them himself). I was really glad that someone asked him about his collaboration with Smashing Pumpkins. Olivier said that he was approached by Billy Corgan because the fantasy world that he was creating at the time, matched what Olivier was doing and Billy wanted to connect with his work. Then the night came to an end, thankfully I didn't cry, but I did leave feeling amazing and even more in love with him than before.