One of the Fall 2011 collections I couldn’t stop thinking about was Josephus Thimister’s. His name is half the reason I am so mesmerized. Josephus Melchior Thimister is just a beautiful Dutch name with a medieval sheen. I speak Dutch, so I can really roll it off my tongue. What a marvellous designer and what a strange odyssey that has finally landed him where he is.
He comes from Maastricht, that medieval city at the very bottom of the Netherlands that actually has a couple of hills. He claims Belgian, Russian and French descent and attended Koninklijke Academie voor Schone Kunsten in Antwerp, the one that all the cool Belgian kids went to. He graduated a year before the Antwerp Six made their big splash. He first worked at Lagerfeld, then Jean Patou. He took over Balenciaga to some acclaim in the 1990s, though his turn is much overshadowed by Ghesquiere’s. He scrambled up enough support to launch three collections at the Paris shows in 2000 and 2001 but didn’t get the traction to continue. His clothes then, as now, were beautifully understated and really came to life in movement. He then moved on to Genny and Charles Jourdan, as both were in decline. In these wilderness years he also installed shows and designed interiors for magazines.
He finally resufaced in 2010 with an absurdly strong and distinctive collection. It’s based on the strange vortex created by WW1 in Russia that led to the revolution (or something like that, he’s rather vague on the historical facts). While the bloodstains are a bit too literal for me I love the colors, most of the clothes, the mood, and the fact that Thimister appears to think hard and provocatively well outside fashion. It’s a collection I cannot stop looking at. Critics were generally enthusiastic.
There’ve been a couple of collections since. Like I said, I loved Fall 2011, unlike some of the critics. It was called “mystic circles of fallen angels”. It’s darkly poetic and austere in a luxurious way (linen that looks like burlap, rich shiny fabrics cut deceptively simply). Oh, if I could cut like that.
Anyway, Thimister’s story is the kind of strange journey that I like. Seemingly forever in the wrong place at the wrong time, he just lit up the sky like a bold new designer, but with all the experience and the skills of someone at the top of their game.
Apparently he’s mostly self-financed, and his uncompromised vision might not play well in a world of bling, so I worry. It would be great if he could hang around a little longer this time.
POSTSCRIPT March 2012: Thimister is not showing in Paris for FW12/13. I am heartbroken.