August 24, 2006

Who The Fuck Is Olivier Theyskens

And why should we worry whether there's a place for him?

When he took over at Rochas, which was established in 1925, the house was known, if it was known at all, for a perfume that arrived in a pale pink box decorated in black lace. Theyskens took that lace and transformed it into dresses, skirts and jackets (he didn’t show pants at first) that mixed the tight bodices and full skirts of the 50’s with an entirely new sense of proportion and tailoring. Instead of copying the formula established by companies like Gucci, which successfully revived a moribund fashion house by establishing a global brand built on image, Theyskens chose a riskier path. From his first full collection for fall 2003, Theyskens has tried to re-establish Rochas through the power of design, with a romantic, elegant and precisely realized sensibility.

Great, so he makes expensive, pretty dresses for the beautiful (rich) people. Unfortunately, thanks to acquisitional shenanigans, the House of Rochas is owned by Proctor & Gamble.

“Olivier Theyskens is an incredible designer. He has really created a big name for himself, but P&G is not a fashion house.”

Boy can you say that again. A purveyor of household products don't have many corporate synergies with prêt-à-porter. Which led to P&G closing down the fashion side of Rochas.

It's sad that a fashion house can't make a living by selling clothes.

“I would like to stop global vulgarity,” Theyskens told me more than once in the days I spent with him.

This was a thinly veiled reference to the world of the megabrands that seek out the universal fashion customer — perhaps most famously, and most successfully, Gucci.

It helps to have shops in every major city, a large advertising budget and a well-developed accessories line. In this marketplace, it is becoming almost impossible to be, like Rochas, a highly regarded small house with a high-end international clientele.

Nothing is more symptomatic of the big-name fashion houses' "global vulgarity" than the Taipei streets, where it seems everyone from high-school princesses to office ladies to gray-haired oba-sans carry around the LV, Gucci, or Coach bag. The fancy bag, assuming it's even the real deal, is more likely than not accompanying the finest night-market fashions. The price points are set to make it just barely affordable by the typical working girl, give or take some credit card debt. But massive marketing and careful brand-building turn a pseudo-affordable purchase into a gateway to a world of luxury.

I would love to be able to reject the culture of consumer whoredom and move on to a higher spiritual state untroubled by material things. Unfortunately, one still needs to have a birthday presents for the GF, especially when it was on the same week as 七夕. The fancy blue box was worth about as much as the actual bauble itself, which makes it all part of the fun. Hopefully she won't run into so many copies as to lose the luxury of uniqueness, unlike a Speedy, for example.

Posted by mikewang on 08:46 PM