Engineering school dropout Nicolas Theil isn’t your typical designer: expatriated in Japan at age 14, he’s come out of technical studies with a passion for design and illustration, and now he’s making a name for himself through accessories that are as luxurious as they are creative and singular-looking. His inspirations are drawn from nature, but not your mother’s lovely bucolic escapades. No, Theil’s nature is the one that humanity is trying to escape: a ravaged, arid thing that is slowly mutating to compensate for the damage done to it.
In his Parisian showroom and atelier, a minute space crammed with shockingly luxurious items and incredible prototypes, Theil presented his Summer 14 collection which has just finished showing in the Tranoï’s young designer showcase. Last June, he was dressing the new Mercedes CLA in a mutated car cover of leather strips that highlighted the movement of this asphalt predator.
Recycling plays a large part in the Theil glossary: early jewelry were molded refuse prettied up in precious metal, his most iconic line was inspired by an apple he’d bitten into and most of his materials are sourced from the cast-offs of luxury houses. “I like the rough aspect of certain unloved parts of crocodile hides, such as the legs. They have great character,” slips Theil while showing some strips that he’s recently acquired. These elements still play a part in the “Mutation Marine” collection, a metal syringe hooked on fangs close the Crystal Marin clutch, glass frames (leftovers from earlier accessory tries) become warped wrap bracelets. But his larger pieces have the right pedigree to become hits for both men and women. His Nuclear Large carry-all has straps that can be extended so the bag can be carried by hand or slung over the shoulder, and a front zip gives access to the bag’s content without having to open it fully.
Five seasons in, his accessories are making their way around the planet, with the young designer hooking brick-and-mortar retailers in Japan, Dubai and Paris, as well as online ones including success-story of 2012 “L’Exception” and artisans-only Soubis.com. The growth of his brand is slow as he has no financial backers, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; after all, evolution didn’t happen overnight.