Olivier Theyskens: Leading Belgian Fashion Designer

Nicole Kidman (in Olivier Theyskens for Rochas) photographed in New York by Irving Penn - July, 2003 | © Ŧhe ₵oincidental Ðandy/Flickr
Nicole Kidman (in Olivier Theyskens for Rochas) photographed in New York by Irving Penn - July, 2003 | © Ŧhe ₵oincidental Ðandy/Flickr
Photo of Paulina Gono
3 January 2017

Native Brusseleir Olivier Theyskens would move from humble beginnings to become a fashion designer to the stars in the late ’90s. From an extravagant Gothic style, Theyskens would change his designs but not his creative touch when working as artistic director behind established collections such as Nina Ricci and Theory. Here’s everything you need to know about the designer.

From vintage sheets to glamour

In 1997, 20-year-old Theyskens left the renowned art school École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels in Brussels to start his own business. As a young designer without a budget, Theyskens often worked with what was available, and that is why this collection technically originated from his grandmother’s house. She gave Theyskens vintage sheets she was collecting, which was just enough for him to establish his early designs. His first official collection was called ‘Gloomy trips’ and was extravagant and Gothic in style.

Theyskens’ collection caught the attention of Madonna’s stylist Arianne Phillips, who spotted photos of his collection from a Belgian fashion show. Soon, Theyskens’ black satin coat dress debuted at the Oscars in 1998. After Madonna’s Oscar night, Theyskens steadily gained recognition and was soon sought after by many other celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Aniston.

Awards and career

Theyskens’ collection was presented at Paris Fashion Week in 1999 brought him huge success and ensured him a place in the fashion industry next to established names such as Versace, Gucci, Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen.

Even as a newcomer and very young designer, he was able to capture the attention of the biggest fashion magazines. His success was shortly followed by a Venus de la Mode Award in 2000 for his fall-winter collection containing long leather coats and amazing wide ball-skirts.

In 2002, Theyskens became a creative director at French fashion, beauty and perfume house Rochas where he replaced Peter O’Brien. He created a new silhouette for the house, which represented a Parisien elegance of the 1950s – something entirely different from his previous designs. He worked at Rochas until its parent company announced the termination of their work.

Theyskens also managed to design costumes for Verdi’s opera The Two Foscari performed at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels and received the International Award – also called the ‘fashion Oscar’ – granted by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for his collection at Rochas.

After Rochas, Theyskens began work as an artistic director for Nina Ricci in 2003, focusing on casual dressing for young women. Despite the positive feedback for his collections, the company did not renew his contract, and he left in 2009. He then began to work for Theory, and he became artistic director in 2011. During his time at Theory, his aesthetic further evolved from the Gothic style of his earlier days to the more ready-to-wear garments.

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