By Alice Butterlin

Most of the world has been in lockdown for over a month now due to the COVID-19 crisis. A moment frozen in time, when people are faced with solitude, grief or anxiety and see their daily lives shift for the better or the worse. In this time of extreme uncertainty, we can also take the time to reflect, create and enjoy the passing of these strange elastic days. We thought it would be interesting to ask artists around the globe how their creative process has changed during the quarantine and if it has been an inspiring or rather daunting experience… with a quick snapshot of themselves in lockdown. Olivier Theyskens dove headlong into a bold endeavor: to create his own clothing brand at just twenty years old in the 1990s. Featuring gothic romanticism and a poetic spirit from a bygone era, his first collections conjure up a sense of time that belongs wholly to the Belgian designer’s unique creative realm. The success is immediate. He then works for Rochas, Nina Ricci and Theory, which he steered for five years. Recently, almost twenty years after his first runway show in Paris, Olivier Theyskens was back at the helm of his fashion house, which he revived in 2016. Since last February, he has also been appointed artistic director at Azzaro. Before discovering his first collection for the house, discover what he’s been doing these days.

How has your daily life changed since lockdown began?

I’m living the lockdown like a precious and special moment… The idea that you only live once has often led me to create moments of retreat, such as the two sabbatical years I’ve taken in the past. At that time, I took the opportunity to travel and see things, to live for a moment in another country, with new friends. But I could just as well stay at home without going anywhere for a week or spend time watching several seasons in a row of a series that I hadn’t really had time to see. So the present lockdown is a feeling I already know and am now living through with a level head. On the other hand, I am obviously anxious about the consequences and misfortunes of this global crisis.

Have you had to rethink the way you create?

Since I relaunched Olivier Theyskens three years ago, I have been following a philosophy of constant transformation and evolution, and also of adapting my method because it seems essential for my company. In fact, certain changes that my team and I have recently made seem to us, on reflection, to be almost precursors of what we are bound to face soon in terms of how our organization will be readjusted. Our ties with certain manufacturers are key and I hope they will be strengthened, as will our valuable relationship with the buyers who follow us. Our efforts to constantly adapt and to work on our message without distorting our authenticity, our quest for quality and freedom will, I hope, inspire us in the future and help us to hold and develop harmoniously despite these complex conditions. The times ahead will bring exciting challenges for design and entrepreneurship, and the sector will need the support of key players in the fashion world.

Did you realize anything in particular during this time?

Every moment that triggers introspection can allow us to open our minds or get stuck in closed circuits of thought… I try to ask questions and formulate possible answers. For a long time I have been suffering from the madness of our civilization and the ravages of the human ogre, but strangely enough, I, who often associated the future with a dystopian vision, tend to have more positive feelings lately.

Are you worried?

Yes, quite so. Worried about the hard times that many vulnerable people will probably experience, about the political, populist, demagogic risks surrounding power. I’m convinced that beauty, strong and fragile as it is, is what I can express most forcefully. But what does it mean in the middle of a storm? One thing is certain: there is a movement of many people who feel powerless and who want to push things in a better direction.

Do you feel more inspired or paralyzed by the lockdown?

I’m very inspired. I have always known myself to be both inspired and motivated because I have the good fortune to do what I choose to do.

Have you started or returned to any activities that you do not normally have time to do?

I took up yoga again, which requires natural and luminous discipline.

What do you think you’ll take away from this shutdown?

I will remember it as a strange parenthesis, worthy of a screenplay, that I lived in intimacy and harmony with my lover.

How do you see life after this crisis?

As a big, fat question mark, just like in the cartoons.

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