The designer first partnered with the sportswear brand for a capsule collection in 2010. And, Theyskens' Theory was a breakout success — it almost sold out, then secured a runway slot for fall 2011, and consistently walked at Fashion Week until being dismantled in November 2013. Meanwhile, Theyskens was appointed artistic director six months into his tenure at Theory, and started to oversee womenswear, menswear, and accessories. Insiders claim the brand owes its global recognition to Theyskens' Theory, though the offshoot faced its own challenges. It "failed to ignite sales on the store floor," WWD writes. "Sources said the collection, which used more luxe fabrics and was priced higher than Theory, was deemed too advanced for the Theory customer and, although it garnered editorial credits in magazines, never really built momentum after the initial launch." Theyskens also had trouble adhering to the company's production calendar.
WWD expands on an idea put forth by Lynn Hirschberg in a 2006 New York Times Magazine article, titled "Is There a Place for Olivier Theyskens?" She spoke with the designer – then creative director of Rochas – after the house suspended its fashion business, writing, "Many fashion-world insiders question Theyskens's decision to concentrate on such high-end creations… No matter how gorgeous, demicouture may not be practical as an overall business strategy." She cited his spring 2006 ready-to-wear collection for the brand, inspired by Monet's water lilies. "Realistically, most women will not wear floor-sweeping dresses in their day-to-day lives," she stated. "For Theyskens, that was never the point, and maybe it shouldn't be." He went on to work at Nina Ricci, and was dismissed prior to his contract's end, following two-years of editorial praise, but poor sales.
To answer Hirschberg's again-relevant headline, perhaps the place for Theyskens is a couture house, where he'd be able to exercise his creative muscle without constraints. (See: Madonna at the 1998 Academy Awards in OG Theyskens.) Or, to unearth nearly decade-old rumors referenced in her piece, it might be at Oscar de la Renta, which then "seemed an odd fit," but doesn't now.