creative process :: olivier theyskens
Relating to and inspired by Olivier Theyskens
Stephen Todd: In a previous conversation, when I mentioned to you that you’d fallen asleep curled up in a ball on a tiny couch at Jacky’s (co-founder of Shirtology & one of Olivier’s best friends) place, you said you were like a kitten!
Olivier Theyskens: I’m very cat! I love all animals, but cats are particularly beautiful. A cat is everything more than we are: more supple, more streamlined, more independent, faster, more agile. Everything! I have a chat sauvage, a once feral cat, that I had to leave in Belgium because she is in her habitat there. She’s incredible: blacker than black, with enormous whiskers, truly extraordinary. She’s a fantastic hunter, a real feline creature.
ST: I find it interesting that you give yourself so easily to being photographed. I always think of you as someone who keeps a distance, solitary. You’ve never struck me as the kind of guy who allows easy access to himself.
OT: Solitary? I can be, and I certainly have been during different periods of my life. But I can also be extremely social, although I’m very conscious not to allow myself to grow tired of that. Tired of people. I can see people non-stop and then, all of a sudden, have an almost visceral need to be alone. Often that corresponds with a great flood of creativity, when I feel this incredible need to isolate myself and think, and dream and draw. But then, after a few days of that, I feel the need again to be social, to see friends, or colleagues to chat, to reflect on what I’ve done, to input their points of view.
I really admire people who have that incredible discipline to draw all alone every morning. But that’s not me. I’m too sporadic in my desires. That said, when I began in fashion, I believed as a designer you had to draw all alone, to be isolated in your creative space, à la Yves Saint Laurent. But it’s not true. Not even for Saint Laurent, he had Loulou and all these other little satellites revolving around him, showing him fabric, accessories, saying ‘What do you think of this, of that?’ and that, would it look good… So, in fact, despite the myth, he never really worked completely alone. Sure, sometimes he found himself alone in the room, him and his solitude. He had a kind of mini Court of Versailles nonetheless. And the thing with having a little court is that from time to time you feel the impulse to escape, the need to be alone in order to breathe.
ST: Your aesthetic has a distinctly dramatic side. What role does drama have in your life?
OT: I’ve always liked drama, that’s for sure. But on the podium, not in my QUOTIDIaN! I always like it when behind first appearances there is an undertow of drama, a potential for an explosion of emotion or an extravagant gesture that will make everybody stop and pay attention. If you need to have strength in life, it’s because something out there could harm you. Or at least make you feel fragile, vulnerable, so you have to be constantly on the look-out.
It’s that tensile feeling that I find both compelling & repelling. There is nothing that inspires me less than someone who is completely happy in the face of life, who goes about life completely content with all that is thrown in their path. The person who just floats along, with no idea where they’re going, no engagement with the world. Let’s just say, she would not be my muse! I appreciate people who are conscious, awake, who are alive to what’s going on around them. Who, when they see something cruel, cry. I find that really important. For me, beauty could never function in conjunction with a stance that is beyond reality