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the end of an era

this is not a review of olivier theysken’s career in the industry, but in fact just a personal retrospective appreciation of his work designing for nina ricci, following peter copping’s debut spring/summer 2010 collection.

the core of theysken’s design aesthetic is, in my opinion, the blending and the balance of hard and soft, as well as the ability to design intelligent and nuanced collections. no other designer, as proven not only by copping’s paris showing but by marco zanini’s fall/winter 2009 and spring/summer 2010 collections for rochas, possesses his ability to reinvent labels and stay simultaneously true to himself and to the original. (while it would be a mistake for succeeding creative directors to design in accordance with olivier theysken’s point of view, it has been proven so far that their reinterpretations are lacking in comparison.)

nina ricci originally, and as designed by lars nilsson from 2003 to 2006, was about obvious femininity and romanticism. while i think the label does not have a classic silhouette in the same way we think of lanvin or yves saint laurent having a classic silhouette, copping has designed a collection erring on the side of obvious (and in fact almost garish) girlishness. you can see that he has possibly attempted to reference the melancholy that theysken’s wove effortlessly into his designs at nina ricci, but instead we are left with an awkward hybrid of “punk” and “girly” that is not only alarmingly incohesive but also the fashion version of how i dressed in middle school.

nina ricci by peter copping, spring/summer 2010

nina ricci by theyskens, in comparison, was about the paradoxes between ethereal softness and hard modernity, dark fantasy and unexpected femininity, subtle futurism and transparent nostalgia.

theysken’s nina ricci debut, fall/winter 2007, a huge departure from lars nilsson’s spring/summer 2006 collection, view the whole collection at style.com

the interesting thing about theyskens is that he constantly references his own work. for his first collection he introduced a muted color palette to tie together the variety of organic architecture, casual layers, and structured silhouettes. it transforms from urban at the beginning, to feminine, witchy and androgynous, and at the end, over the top elegance. this collection, while a little inconsistent in itself, lends itself to his future body of work.

for spring/summer 2008 the idea of feathers and soft drapes is explored further, though the silhouette (with a few exceptions) is streamlined. theysken’s combines ombre, embroidery, and velvet to create a series of looks that are–at first glance–ultra-luxurious but at the same time ghostly and haunting.

nina ricci spring/summer 2008, view the whole collection at style.com

upon further inspection theysken’s designs are not theatrical and unwearable (as is his criticism as a designer based on the clothing sales for nina ricci. in fact, the corporate image of nina ricci as a largely perfume-based label was radically different than theysken’s ready-to-wear aesthetic during his 2 1/2 years at the house, but this is a different subject altogether), and he has incorporated a huge amount of casual denim and leather into the collection.

the makeup, and especially the hair, creates a whole other dimension to the seeing versus feeling aspect of theysken’s designs.

for fall/winter 2008, he turned his color palette completely on it’s head, utilizing similar material, but instead opting for warm jewel tones and vibrant patterns. he continues, instead of floaty draping and layers, an exploration of broken down blazers and baggy, tapered pants. his silhouette as a whole is much more extreme–there is no flirty dresses here, but instead a contrast between structured shoulders and coattails, long, waist-less dresses, and draped blouses with high necklines.

nina ricci fall/winter 2008, view the whole collection at style.com

there is a distinct allusion to past eras, though theyskens does not reference it directly in this collection.

in spring/summer 2009, however, he does.

nina ricci spring/summer 2009, view the whole collection at style.com

we can see here not only a direct evolution of a silhouette, but the definitive reference to the edwardian period in much more direct way than the fall collection. here, the fabrics have changed from the last two seasons but the exploration of print and construction remains consistent. theysken’s has also touched point on the ruffles and layers that he used earlier in his career at nina ricci, although the femininity in this collection seems at the same time androgynous and nave.

this collection is the inverse of the fall presentation, comprised mainly of dresses and not pants and coats. these two seasons, unlike the ones preceding them, do not have specific underlying tones of darkness, but it is in my opinion that all of his collections up to this point have been cohesive with one another. it is unfortunate that his final collection for nina ricci will be his most publicly renowned.

while fall/winter 2009 was theysken’s interpretation of the overwhelming trends in fashion (the black, disco, 80s, punk, etc as initiated by balmain fall/winter 2008 and continued with little reimagination for the next three seasons and unfortunately seen in almost any and every collection across the world following it’s success) it was, in my mind, inconsistent with both nina ricci and olivier theyskens for nina ricci’s aesthetic up to this point. it was a huge departure from the concepts he had been examining since his beginning at the label, and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it is to me irrelevant and unrepresentative of his design preceding it.

nina ricci fall/winter 2009, view the whole collection at style.com

i do not think this was a bad collection, it was only presented in bad context. there is no nuance or intelligence in this design, there is only experimentation with extremes that appeal to our constant want of bigger and better. there is no doubt here that theyskens is both bigger and better, but without a preceding or succeeding collection that directly relates to this one we are left suspended by trends that determine the genius of his work and not the thoughtfulness that might have gone into this transformation. there are some references in cut to spring/summer 2009, and theyskens ability to construct garments is still very much apparent, but these aspects of the collection seem convenient and disconnected rather than an intentional artistic evolution.

it was a huge blow to me personally when theyskens was replaced at nina ricci, but it could be extremely rewarding to see him design with a different aesthetic foundation. i am a huge fan of theyskens and i look forward to hopefully seeing his work in the very near future.


  1. Posted October 5, 2009 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    this is a fantastic post.

  2. charlie
    Posted October 7, 2009 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    hello hello

    i was just thinking about this today and trying to google whether he was starting anything new after waiting to see how nina ricci would look under the new art direction


    well funny coincidence i also haven’t checked your blog in like a month eheh