January 2011

Image: Appearances Working Theory

Olivier Theyskens, theory, fashionMARIO SORRENTI

Olivier Theyskens’ designs lend a dark glamour to the stalwart of office-appropriate chic by Booth Moore

Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens is back on the fashion scene, launching a capsule collection for con­temporary label Theory. And women’s closets may never be the same. Theyskens’ Theory collec­tion—$70 to $1,150, set to be in stores by Febru­ary—includes silk pleat-front pants and skirts and stretch wool blazers cut with a notch so they slip off the shoulders slacker style. (“The way I wear mine,” he says.)

Affordable luxury is a switch for Theyskens, 33, who put the fashion houses of Rochas and Nina Ricci back on the map, after making a name for himself at the tender age of 21 by dressing Madonna in a sleeveless black satin coat dress with hook-and-eye closures for the 1998 Academy Awards.

In his Paris tenure, he was a critical, if not commercial, success. His runway designs featured dresses embroidered with human hair, jackets with wing-like frills between the shoulders and Belle Époque–inspired gowns painted like Monet’s Water Lilies. But his uncompromising techniques sent prices skyrocketing, and in 2009 his contract at Nina Ricci was not renewed.

Then Theory came calling. “This is a collection for my friends, who I want to be able to buy my stuff,” says Theyskens. But the capsule collection is just a hint of things to come. This fall, the designer’s title will be artistic director for the $500 million Theory brand—both men’s and women’s wear. And at least one person is betting on a winner. Theory co–CEO Andrew Rosen has named his star racehorse Theyskens’ Theory.

Olivier Theyskens, theory, fashion