One of the most influential designers of our current times gave an informal talk at the Museum at F.I.T. recently. Olivier Theyskens, at a young age was appointed creative director at the House of Rochas, followed by artistic director at legendary couture house, Nina Ricci. He currently designs a caspule collection for Theory.
Refreshingly, Mr. Theyskens was charming and matter-of-fact. He chose to show slides of the various things, abstract and practical that inspired him. He described his humble beginnings, creating Gothic jackets (pictured left) out of his grandparent's sheets. On his own response to media questions about his "muse", he thinks to himself, "whoops..." at not having one prepared.
For someone with such a lofty resume and impressive creative work, I expected a more pretentious, jaded man at the podium. I expected a lengthy speech about his direction, work, and a lot of other self-absorbed stuff one expects of designers of his caliber.
Instead, he described his favorite images, like the blue and mystery of one, how he was moved by the contrast of rough boots and ethereal dress of another with childlike awe and enthusiasm. He frequently referred to his design team sitting in front of him and noted it was a collaborative effort.
I loved his response to a tough question from the audience. Someone asked for his response to the theory that women are more qualified to design for women because they know what they need and like to wear. He was not offended, and did not disagree. Rather, he explained that yes, women absolutely know themselves more, but he designs from the view of what looks beautiful on them as an outside admirer.