Death of a stylist – The Post


The Dutch designer Josephus Melchior Thimister died on November 13 last year: he was 57 years old and in the nineties, at the height of his career, he was long considered among the most interesting and promising of the moment. The designer and artist Ralph Rucci called him "the greatest of his generation", in 2001 the director of Vogue America Anna Wintour placed him among the "fashion star of the 21st century", headed the Spanish luxury company Balenciaga for five years and then founded her own brand, THIMISTER; yet few have remembered him at the news of his death. Among them is Vanessa Friedman, the fashion expert of the New York Times, who wrote a portrait to remember him and tried to frame his story in a broader scenario, that of the radical changes in the fashion world of recent years: «he was also a victim of the transition of fashion from a creative incubator of individuality to industry global".

Thimister was born in Maastricht, the Netherlands, in 1962; after attending the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, he worked as an assistant to Karl Lagerfeld and for the French company Patou. In 1991, at age 30, he became creative director of Balenciaga; his first show of haute couture, completely in black and white, it is often described as the moment when the company resumed working on high fashion: "it was for him that we returned to our interest in Balenciaga," said Julie Gilhart, then head of fashion for Barneys New, for example York, the famous chain of luxury department stores.

In 1997 Thimister left the company – his place was taken by Nicolas Ghesquiere – to found his eponymous brand. He struggled to make ends meet and closed it in 2004; in 2005 he became the artistic director of the shoe company Charles Jourdan, where he remained for two years; in 2010 he returned to the Paris Fashion Week with a high fashion show called "1915: Blood and Opulence", a mix of coats inspired by those of Russian officers, military jackets with blood red and silk and satin interiors, an attempt to answer "To the problems of today that are the end of that period," he said referring to the First World War. The collection really liked it and convinced him to design, the successful year, a new ready-to-wear brand, which never stood out and closed in 2013. Since then he worked as an interior designer, consultant for the Italian brand Pucci and teaching the La Cambre art school in Brussels and at the French fashion institute in Paris.

Friedman discovered his work in 1997 or 1998, probably at his first Paris Fashion Week, and was immediately struck by a dress that became the first piece of fashion he bought: Thimister, he writes, was "a talent that could stay balanced on the razor's edge between poetry and a slightly grunge intensity ». Friedman explains that he was part of the latest group of designers who matured in the late eighties and nineties, those who still believed in creativity and inspiration before discovering «that in the 21st century success was established by marketing and from the constant flow of products ", when" the key word was no longer vision but the vision statement ".

According to Friedman the other victims of this passage are Alexander McQueen, British designer at the head of Givenchy who also died a suicide, at 40, in 2010; the French Christophe Decarnin, who in 2006 became Balmain's creative director, making it known throughout the world before being fired in 2011 for a nervous breakdown; the British John Galliano, who in 2011 was fired from Dior when he broke into a slew of anti-Semitic insults, which he attributed to drug addiction, alcohol and work-related stress. Galliano is the only one who has recovered with a new career in the French company Maison Margiela.

The history of these designers is always the same: you make your way ending up running a big fashion company, create your own brand, fight to make ends meet with secondary roles in a more plastered and less interesting brand, the financial problems, closes, returns, closes again. According to Friedman it is not a case but a signal: "if we continue not to pay attention to these stories, we are destined to repeat them".

Thimister lived in an apartment all in black and white with a stuffed polar bear and elephant; he was near the Invalides, in the center of Paris, and had once belonged to Hubert de Givenchy, or at least he told it. His first business partner, Sebastian Suhl, remembers him as prone to depression and mood swings, "exasperatedly stubborn and self-centered, but extraordinarily sensitive, gentle, generous". "In other words, he possessed many of the qualities once associated with the idea of ​​a stylist: drama, exasperation, eccentricity, a taste for excess, all things that turned a blind eye to the name of art, in fact it was what we were he expected and liked an artist, "writes Friedman. In the years marked by the attack on the Twin Towers, by the global economic crisis, by the rise of China and the internet that have changed the rules of the game, there is no place for these indulgences. "It would be reassuring to think that talent conquers everything, but to think of it would only be a beautiful fairy tale," says Friedman: the designer's work and the fashion world have changed and "there has been no room for the transaction, or for the disharmony that came later. Between yesterday and today a chasm opened up and many designers, including Thimister, fell into it. The paradox is that the clothes he created have a timeless beauty ».


Where to ask for help
If you are in an emergency situation, call 118. If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts, you can call the Friend Phone at 199 284 284 or via the internet from here, every day from 10 to 24.

You can also call the Samaritans on the toll-free number 800 86 00 22 from landline or to 06 77208977 from mobile, every day from 13 to 22.

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