BREAKING OUT OF PARIS: Olivier Theyskens Is Azzaro’s New Artistic Director
PARIS, FRANCE — Belgian fashion designer Olivier Theyskens has been named artistic director of Azzaro, according to WWD.
In his new role, Theyskens will design the Paris-based brand’s couture collections, ready-to-wear lines, and accessories for women and men.
Theyskens’ first collection for Azzaro will be unveiled during the next couture shows in the City of Lights, scheduled for July 5 to 9. He is Maxime Simoëns‘ successor, who spearheaded the house’s design for two years, starting in 2017.
“It’s a house that has more than 50 years of creation; it’s vast,” Theyskens enthused during an interview. “There is a sense of pleasure, self-confidence and choice — personal choice — and also an aspect of couture that has been in the foundations of the house.”
Azzaro was founded in 1967 by Loris Azzaro, the house is perhaps best known for its popular men’s fragrances — and for slinky, body-hugging gowns worn.
Theyskens told WWD, that he would be taking in Azzaro’s heritage “to understand how I can be inspired by this legacy, but also project [its values] in our contemporary times.”
Theyskens trumpeted the brand’s legacy of beauty and glamour. “The house standards are in couture and high-scale, high-quality ready-to-wear,” he continued. “It’s a fashion that is more connected with atelier studies. It is very exciting for me. I’ve never really been in that environment that much, because the shows are during the haute couture week.”
Asked how he might approach Azzaro, Theyskens said: “I always want to create something relevant for the house and for the name I work for. So I feel very free to not necessarily do things in a certain way. I think the most important thing is being inspired by how your creation has a natural tendency to meet with what should be done for the brand, and that’s the fuel I have. That’s what I’m looking for.”
Azzaro has staged coed couture shows for the past two seasons, intermingling ready-to-wear with high fashions.
“We’re not really thinking about, is this is couture and is this ready-to-wear,” said Gabriel de Linage, chief executive officer of Azzaro, who joined Theyskens for the interview. “We are just creating pieces, and then some of them are couture and some are ready-to-wear, which is why we are mixing the two universes in the show. It’s one inspiration for all the collections.”
Theyskens will design accessories, too. That’s a category, along with Azzaro fragrances, that is expected to be part of the purchase of the Clarins Fragrance Group by L’Oréal in the first quarter of this year.
Azzaro couture, meantime, is owned by Andorra, Spain-based Reig Capital Group.
While serving as artistic director for Azzaro fashion, Theyskens will continue designing his eponymous brand.
Theyskens first launched his own line in 1997, but it shuttered in 2002 under mounting pressure from retailers and investors. He then went to work for Rochas, followed by Nina Ricci and Theory. In 2014, he left Theory (see it here) and focused on relaunching his label bringing on LVMH veteran Maximiliano Nicolelli as chief executive. After a hiatus, he re-launched his signature brand in 2016, basing it out of a storied mansion in Paris’ 10th arrondissement. The label is now distributed in around 40 high-end stores worldwide.
He also spent time at Esteban Cortázar and La Perla, as his chief executive.
He launched his first collection while an undergraduate at the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Visuels de la Cambre — and catapulted to fashion fame at age 21, when Madonna wore his black satin hook-and-eye gown to the Oscars in 1998.
“We have been growing steadily,” Theyskens said of his privately held business. “I have always been in a mode to go cautiously with it, because we self-produce everything [in Italy]. I work with a very tight team, in a very enjoyable spirit. We are still a bit in a start-up state of mind.”
De Linage said he selected the designer for Azzaro because Theyskens “has quite a rare capacity to step into a heritage and bring his own flair to it, being 100 percent consistent with the heritage,” he explained.
Azzaro was relaunched three years ago when the house celebrated its 50th anniversary.
“We are in a very good growth rate,” said de Linage, without divulging revenue figures. “Since the relaunch, we have been doubling the sales.”
Among plans are to add four more corners in Galeries Lafayette and to enter Asia this year.
“We have a big project for China,” said de Linage, explaining Azzaro is in discussions with a department store there and plans to launch on Alibaba’s Luxury Pavilion.
“We have many celebrities wearing the brand,” said de Linage. “You can see a very strong appeal for [Azzaro]. The last two shows we have received requests on the night of fashion [displays] from celebrities saying, ‘I want to reserve this and this.’
“We are not paying for placement, so this is something that shows the desirability and all the excitement around Azzaro,” he noted.
Photos Credit: Courtesy