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[Design Forum] Mixing couture with ready-to-wear

In 1998, at age 21, Olivier Theyskens was already a darling of the fashion world. Ever since Madonna wore his dress to the year’s Golden Globes, his creations won many praises from fashion people around the world and the media.

After wrapping up his own brand in 2001, he worked as creative director for Rochas from 2003 and then moved to Nina Ricci in 2006, both in Paris.

In 2011, he moved to New York to work for Theory which he left in June.

“It was like a systematic move every few years,” the designer said at the Herald Design Forum 2014, held at Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul on Wednesday. 
Olivier Theyskens. (Park Hyun-koo /The Korea Herald)
Olivier Theyskens. (Park Hyun-koo /The Korea Herald)

“I have been attracted to discovering different brands. The experiences were all enriching and in a way very complimentary,” he said.

Years in Paris helped him nurture the Haute Couture side of his fashion sense, while the experience with Theory allowed him to understand the ready-to-wear business, he explained.

While he fundamentally believes that “beautiful clothes don’t always need to be new,” he strives to strike a balance in the old and the new or art and commerce.

“I try to create what I want to see now with a little glimpse of the future,” he said.

Now free from any obligation with fashion houses, he said he is now able to look at the fashion industry from a distance and focus on what his true artistic instincts dictate.

Showing a photo of a wedding dress which he created after leaving Theory, he said it represented an ultimate vision that he always had in his mind ever since he was a little boy.

“As a child, I always dreamt of making beautiful gowns with this big volume, trim and drama. This is my first dress since I stopped my brand,” he said.

Showing a piece of paper with about 10 undressed female figures, he said, “Regularly, I think about how I will dress these girls and how I will help them to make an impression.”

Although he didn’t show his collection in New York or Paris this fall, he made lots of drawings as if he would, he said.

The imaginary collections are now all in a box in a corner of his studio.

Personally, Theyskens believes that fashion is just a way of expressing oneself.

“I think people who are open-minded to new fashion are more likely to be open-minded to other things and evolve,” he said.

There are some people who don’t really care about fashion and choose to focus on their inside, he went on. “These days, a lot of CEOs just wear sneakers, jeans and T-shirts. They don’t care about the newly-designed suits.”

As for him, the designer, too, doesn’t care too much about what he wears. “I don’t really work my look so much,” he said, adding that he has some favorite clothes which he tries to take good care of.

By Lee Sun-young (