A Conversation With Olivier Theykens (Azzaro Couture)

January 25, 2022
Courtesy: Azzaro Couture

Olivier Theyskens: « I wanted for Azzaro an underlying sensuality, fluid, that transcends gender »

This new collection focuses on tailoring which is shown on the majority of the silhouettes, in tandem with the fluid dresses that have made the House renowned, why this choice?

I wanted to express an evolution in the language of my work for the House by mixing the codes of masculinity and femininity, with a particular focus on the allure of fluid and relaxed tailoring whilst playing with androgyny. This dialogue with the atelier approach of the classic Azzaro dresses guided me throughout the season.

Daytime also emerges in the show in the literal sense as well as figuratively, the show is held in natural daylight, which is uncommon for Azzaro as it is often associated with the nighttime. What does the day reveal about the Azzaro woman and man.

For me, it was important to be able to show a more natural side in the allure and I felt that this collection had something that was more solar. I’ve always liked the notion of relaxed chic, and while in the past I’ve expressed a more nocturnal and sophisticated side of the brand, this time I wanted to reveal a fresher atmosphere.

The collection emerges in a raw and enigmatic setting, simultaneously concrete and abstract, which contrasts with the sophistication of Couture. What does this atmosphere evoke to you and what place does it have within this collection?

My decision was to show these designs within the infrastructure of an urban organic farm which, during the winter season, unveils its structure which evokes an abstract labyrinth setting. With this universe I wanted to create a perception which, if not futuristic, is suspended and architectural. This atmosphere also evokes the future and seemed fitting for the vision I wanted to express.

There are almost as many men’s silhouettes as there are women’s, with a fluidity seldom seen in Couture. Azzaro was among one of the first Houses to introduce menswear in Couture. Today, the two collections are complementary and interchangeable, why this evolution?I think that the subject of fluidity is central today. What interests me is the allure, the attitude and to me, it seems only natural to blur gender. In fact, many women have worn pieces from our menswear Couture and I’m very mindful of this desire. I also love being able to create unique fully embroidered suits that scintillate and this season I covered them in sequins and crystals.

Courtesy: Azzaro Couture

This collection approaches sensuality under a different angle, with a contained sexuality, like an underlying but restrained desire. What does this choice reveal about the current times?

My work around sensuality is an approach that is personal. I like to reveal the body but also keep it elegant. It’s especially through the fluid and draped pieces of which the necklines or the transparency can suggest this sensuality that I’ve refined the cut and the way the fabric falls.

The technical materials hold a central place within the collection with ultimately a real sobriety in the ornamentation. In your opinion, is this an evolution of Couture in the current context?

I like innovation and I love to be able to discover and manipulate new materials. I know how much work and effort goes into the industrial development of innovative materials with new properties, especially within menswear. The Couture approach of the House is very free and this gives me the chance to introduce these kinds of materials to the research and development within our atelier. Loris Azzaro would often punctuate his designs with embroideries in specific places and I like this precise approach.

We note a great fluidity in the materials, the cut and the volumes, even the music of the show is quite organic. What does this fluidity evoke for you?

It’s something that I find modern and it allows movement. This idea for a more flowing silhouette is the origin for my desire to show a collection in an atypical setting and to ask a sound designer to create a refined and abstract ambiance.

Sequins continue to hold and important place with suits and dresses being fully embroidered. How do sequins apply to daytime?

The use of paillettes and sequins allows me to work the surface of the garment and to play with reflections, metallic finishes and colour. The result contributes to make impactful and startling pieces whose cut can be strict. These material effects are beautiful during the day as well as at night, transcending the connotation that was often placed upon them in the past.

Imagining the future of a House with the heritage that is carries is a unique task. How do you approach the future without being hindered by its past?

To have the possibility to be inspired by a particular heritage represents an opportunity for a designer and I’ve never felt hindered by looking at what has been done in the past because I’ve always been free to be able to project myself. This combination of respect for a global piece of work, the desire to protect it and to highlight what it has to offer in terms of its richness of approach can naturally be transposed into a new vision.

If you had to summarize this new collection in a few words?

For me, the collection expresses an underlying sensuality, it’s fluid and transcends gender. I want it to be sober yet free and elegant.

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