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5 posts tagged "Ken Downing"

Free Agent: How Bankable Is Olivier Theyskens Post-Theory?

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Olivier TheyskensFashion loves a comeback, and since Olivier Theyskens parted ways with Theory, the contemporary American sportswear brand, back in June, industry insiders have been plotting his. Is the 37-year-old Belgian designer being considered for a role at Oscar de la Renta, as has been whispered in New York? Could Milan be an option? Sources say he has taken meetings in the Italian city this summer. Or will he return to Paris, where he enjoyed editorial accolades as the creative director at both Rochas and Nina Ricci?

Tastemakers began falling for Theyskens back in the late ’90s, when he dressed Madonna in haute gothic style for the Oscars. With a reputation burnished by stints at Rochas and Nina Ricci, he was an unlikely fit for Theory, a brand built on stretch pants, but his show quickly became one of New York fashion week’s must-sees. Approval ratings started out strong; there was excitement about scoring clothes with the designer’s famous name on the label without dropping four figures. Over time, however, the reviews became more skeptical. In February, Theyskens presented a Fall ’14 Theory show without his name attached, and four months later the brand and Theyskens severed ties. As it stands now, the designer’s track record is one of ups and downs. Does that jeopardize his prospects? Or could the fact that he has experience across different continents and different markets count as an asset? Now that Theyskens is a free agent, Style.com spoke to fashion influencers about his future.

As he dusts off his résumé, Theyskens is looking at a shifting designer landscape. LVMH and Kering are currently signing on designers both younger and greener than he is. LVMH crowned Jonathan Anderson creative director of Loewe at 29. Christopher Kane and Joseph Altuzarra were 31 and 30, respectively, when Kering made its investment in their burgeoning brands. Yes, Nicolas Ghesquière, at 43 and newly installed at Louis Vuitton, is older than Theyskens, but Ghesquière’s Balenciaga tenure was longer and more successful than Theyskens’ Paris gigs. The other trend he could be contending with: Brands are hiring relative unknowns. See Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, recently hired away from The Row to replace Christophe Lemaire at Hermès, and Julie de Libran, the new woman helming Sonia Rykiel.

Insiders don’t see things quite so dimly and are hopeful that he will find
the right match this time.

“Olivier has a great design sensibility. At a time when many things look like other things, he really stays true to himself—that’s what I respect,” says Ken Downing, fashion director and senior vice president of Neiman Marcus. “I think if there were an opportunity in New York, it would be great for him,” he continues. “It’s not so much about location on the map as it is about a house that will understand his talent.”

Nina Ricci and Rochas

Magali Ginsburg, head of buying & category management for The Corner, which sold Theyskens’ Theory “very well,” sees the designer as “the perfect candidate for a house,” especially because “he [is one of] those designers who when they come on board bring with them a more and more savvy crew of customer followers,” ultimately raising a house’s international reputation.

If not a position at an established house, why not his own label? “I know there are a lot of people who said he wasn’t commercially successful, but I was at Barneys and we sold it,” says Julie Gilhart, now a freelance fashion consultant. “He had a following, and it wasn’t the Nina Ricci or the Rochas customer, it was the Olivier customer,” Gilhart continues. “I’ve always thought that Olivier could do his own thing. When I met him, that’s what he was doing, his own thing. It’s what I want to see for him. He’s one of the great designers.”

As a designer accustomed to the machinery of a big brand behind him, starting out on his own could be daunting. But here in New York, Theyskens has watched other designers—Jason Wu, Prabal Gurung—launch careers by putting red-carpet dresses on the backs of celebrities. And anyone who remembers Irving Penn’s portrait of Nicole Kidman in Rochas knows that Theyskens makes a sublime gown. If he were designing at that level again, Kidman and co. would presumably line up to wear him.

theyskens theory

Still, even with A-list endorsements, it can take a decade for a brand to come into its own, and even then it cannot live on eveningwear alone. Wu has branched out into accessories; Gurung counts knitwear among his biggest developing categories. This is where Theyskens’ experience at Theory could pay off, the thinking being that his design vocabulary is much broader than when he arrived in New York four years ago. And his comfort level with everyday is a lot broader now than it was when he arrived. “It broadened his range,” says Neiman’s Downing. “As we all know, he loves couture and does superlative evening pieces. Theory opened up a new vocabulary about sportswear, and living in New York was good for him to see how people on this side of the pond live, dress, and work. It’s a different sensibility than in Europe.”

Anne Slowey, Elle‘s fashion features director, says, “I like what he did for Theory—there is a place for luxury normcore. But I don’t know if it was right for the brand. Unfortunately, Olivier has been miscast all along the way. He’s either too ahead of his time or too far out in left field. Eventually fashion will catch up with him.”

With the industry firmly behind Theyskens—unlike, say, John Galliano, who, since leaving Dior amid a hate-speech scandal, has received support from some influential corners but has yet to redeem himself in the eyes of American retailers—he’s got a good chance of scoring a new gig. But even if he doesn’t land a job quickly, Theyskens isn’t about to fade from fashion’s collective memory bank anytime soon. An Olivier Saillard-curated exhibition set to open at the Palais de la Porte Dorée in December will feature a dress from one of the designer’s earliest signature collections. For now, there’s the virtual museum that is Instagram. #oliviertheyskens.

Photos: IndigitalImages.com; GoRunway.com

Wine for Breakfast with Ecco Domani

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Nine thirty may seem a little early for a wine tasting. But winemaker Ecco Domani had to serve a little something (specifically, its new Blue Moscato) to toast the winners of its 2013 Fashion Foundation awards. Yesterday morning, the likes of fashion consultant Julie Gilhart, Neiman Marcus’ Ken Downing, and Paper‘s Kim Hastreiter (all of whom helped select this year’s honorees) gathered at the Museum of Arts and Design to fete TOME (designed by Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin), Ian Velardi, Deborah Pagani, and Susan Woo. Each of the emerging brands and designers took home a $25,000 grant to fund their upcoming Fall presentations at New York fashion week. “There was an exceptional group this year,” said judge Sally Singer, who cited women’s wear label TOME as particularly impressive. “These prizes are intended to support and reward emerging talent, and this really was a new-wave kind of year.”

This year’s designers join the ranks of previous winners like Proenza Schouler, Alexander Wang, Zac Posen, and Prabal Gurung. The latter attended today’s breakfast as a guest speaker. “When you look at the people who have won in the past, it’s not only a huge boost of confidence, it confirms working this hard has been worth it,” said Woo, winner of the Sustainable Design category. Menswear winner Ian Velardi, who will show his collection for the first time at New York fashion week, echoed the sentiment, saying, “This is probably one of the greatest accomplishments in my life, let alone my career.” How does Gurung feel the award affected his career trajectory? “It changed the landscape of my business early on by simply getting people to notice who I was,” the designer told Style.com. The EDFF alum, who debuts his capsule collection for Target next week, did not leave without offering the rookies some sage advice: “Have the vision of where you want to go but don’t lose sight of where you are. Be present and dare to dream.”

Photos: Andy Kropa/ Getty Images

Ecco Domani’s 2013 Winners Announced

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Winemaker Ecco Domani’s Fashion Foundation Awards—an initiative that aims to support New York’s up-and-coming talents—has helped jump-start the careers of Prabal Gurung, Rodarte’s Kate and Laura Mulleavy, Alexander Wang, and Derek Lam, just to name a few. Today, the foundation’s 2013 winners, each of whom will be given a $25,000 grant to help them present their collections at New York Fashion Week, were announced. A panel that includes Vogue‘s Sally Singer, consultant Julie Gilhart, Neiman Marcus’ Ken Downing, and Paper magazine editor in chief Kim Hastreiter (among others), selected honorees in four categories: Tome, a New York-based label launched in 2011 by Australian designers Ryan Lobo and Ramon Martin, won the womenswear category (left: a look from their Spring ’13 collection). Ian Velardi won for menswear, Susan Woo was honored for sustainable design, and Deborah Pagani won for her line of accessories inspired by Art Deco and rock ’n’ roll. The awardees will be toasted during a luncheon on January 30.

Photo: Courtesy of Tome

On Tom Ford, The Royal Wedding Dress, And Decarnin’s Departure: FGI’s Fashion Experts Weigh In

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In an industry that revolves around opinion, don’t be surprised to hear an earful from a fashion-packed panel. Following Fashion Group International’s thorough distillation of Fall 2011 clothing, accessories, and beauty trends yesterday, Bridget Foley of Women’s Wear Daily tackled other, more controversial industry matters. Foley moderated a panel—composed of Neiman Marcus’ Ken Downing, Kirna Zabête co-founder Beth Buccini, Paper magazine’s Mickey Boardman, and Marie Claire beauty director Ying Chu—that discussed everything from John Galliano’s scandal to Tom Ford’s showmanship.

On the theory that inhuman amounts of stress was at fault for the recent departures of John Galliano and Christophe Decarnin (left), the panel was unflinching. “We all have stresses,” Buccini stated. “Buck up or don’t play.” “Manage yourself,” Downing agreed.

Dichotomies such as intimate runways versus inclusive spectacles drew more mixed results. The Neiman Marcus fashion director raved about Tom Ford’s private London showing this past February. Boardman preferred cozy settings as well, although with a caveat. “I like shows as small as possible, but large enough to have me invited,” the editor said with a laugh. Buccini, meanwhile, added a realist bent. “You can only get away with something so small if you’re Tom Ford,” she said.

Of course, there were more frothy and fun topics, too, including the royal wedding. Panel members shared their wedding gown wishes for the soon-to-be princess. “I just hope it’s a slender cut,” Downing said of the buzzed-about dress. “Leave the meringue for the cake!” With the nuptials a couple weeks way, there’s still plenty of time for some last minute decision-making. At least Buccini will be rising early to watch. “My mom woke me up to watch the Princess Di wedding,” she told Style.com after the discussion. “And now I’m going to watch with my two daughters. It’s like a tradition now.”

Photo: Yannis Vlamos / GoRunway.com

Ask Gaga, Downing’s Dos,
Rodarte Looks Ahead, And More…

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There’s no stopping Lady Gaga. The singer/activist/muse/model/ giant keytar player (left) has picked up another credential—magazine columnist. She’ll pen a new monthly feature for V, the magazine announced today. [V]

Speaking of unstoppable, the sisters Mulleavy are plunging ahead too. The IHT checks in with the L.A.-based design duo on their upcoming Pitti show, their forthcoming collaboration with photographers Catherine Opie and Alec Soth, and their plans for the future. [IHT]

Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing checks in with Fashionista about his favorite shows of the season, from Tom Ford to Proenza Schouler to Marc Jacobs. [Fashionista]

And get ready to spend 30 days with the Kills’ Alison Mosshart: The rocker is the latest subject of Vogue U.K.’s Today I’m Wearing monthly style series. [Vogue U.K.]

Photo: Chelsea Lauren / WireImage