Scan with the free viewa app for Riccardo Tisci’s most iconic runway moments. See page 28 for details it was just how he wanted his sunset.
A golden light draping New York City in a pale rosy glow. Perhaps his prayers were heard, because only the day before, Manhattan was deluged with rain. But for his 10th anniversary with the house of Givenchy, the heavens gave Riccardo Tisci their blessing and he celebrated with a spectacular outdoor fashion show in the shadow of One World Trade Center.
The date on the invitation read September 11, and while America was commemorating this indelible date, Tisci joined in the emotion to mark a career milestone. The timeslot had been attributed to him by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the organisation that handles the New York Fashion Week scheduling, and Tisci, with the typical superstition of a passionate Italian, took it as a sign of encouragement to make the underlying themes align with the hashtags he repeats on his Instagram account: #love, #gang, #family.
As evening fell on the docks of the Hudson River – and a stage composed of wooden pallets and recycled sheet metal – spectators were greeted by a Buddhist monk chanting a mantra. A host of characters played out tableaux amid scenography created by Tisci’s friend, artist Marina Abramovic. Some were motionless, as if frozen in a timeless passion, others held up fragile trees, while others danced a slow ballet around a trickle of water.
I don’t think of these past 10 years as a ‘golden number’ to be honoured, but rather as a time to stop and celebrate life,” says Tisci. I wanted a suspended moment impregnated with an essential value – love. I wanted it to be an honest show that projects me.”
Plainly speaking, Tisci was reflecting on his personal journey. I was born into a very poor family. I was so young when my father died that I have to plumb the depths of my memory to retain what remains of his image. I was brought up by my mother and eight sisters.
I had to go to work when I was 12 to help them. We didn’t have anything, but I was so loved. My mother and sisters had nothing to give me except their love. Love gave me courage; it sustained me and kept me alive.”
Tisci has no fear of the cliches the word love” might convey. He put all his heart into this show. So when it begins, with a series of
Hebrew, Arabic and Hindu religious chants, it is met without cynicism. Marina and I did it all, including the music,” he says.
We thought maybe we were going too far. And then, after all, like it or not, it didn’t matter. This moment will remain. Marina and I wanted to show what is most tender in us.”
And sharing in Tisci’s dream were thousands of his biggest fans. There was the classic assembly of fashion professionals, as well as an impressive gathering of celebrities, from Julia Roberts to Pedro Almodovar, Uma Thurman and Liv Tyler. Plus Debbie Harry, Courtney Love, Nicki Minaj, Erykah Badu, Margot Robbie, Naomi Campbell, Kanye and Kim. But it wasn’t just about the sensational front row. Tisci had organised a lottery that anyone could enter to receive an invitation, and hundreds of fashion students were also invited. Those who couldn’t get in were able to watch the show on giant screens scattered throughout Manhattan. I love my tribe, but fashion is for everybody and I wanted to invite the greatest number of people, to open my podium to all, so that a maximum number of people could experience the dream that is fashion,” explained the designer. I come from the street and I wanted to pay homage to the street.”
As the sky turned dark blue, the models arrived, deshabille in lace, silk, open-work pyjamas, lustrous negligees and tuxedos flirting with transparency and draping.
Tisci’s trademark black and white was interspersed with marvels of haute couture featuring the kind of agonisingly exquisite work that has defined his career.
Without question, it is the most Parisian of my collections and I wanted to show it
I wanted to re-establish this link between this profoundly French house and the enthusiasm of the Americans. To transport the idea of the French woman in an evanescent gown, legs bared, with a man’s jacket, stiletto heels and a cigarette in the comer of her mouth. An ideal woman I have fashioned over my 10 years at Givenchy.”
It’s been a decade of emotion and initiations for Tisci. Arriving as an unknown at a prestigious house fatigued by the fleeting passage of various artistic directors, he wondered what he, a young, penniless designer with a gothic influence, could bring to this mausoleum of Parisian elegance. The story goes that he accepted the job because his mother was forced to sell the family house which his father built with his own hands. I believed in this project and I took the plunge. I had to find a new identity for the label, which richly deserved to return to the limelight. I devoted all my energy, creativity and faith to it.
At one point, I felt as if I was becoming lost. Because when you are no-one and then, after five years, I raised my head.
I became aware of how lucky I was to be in this business, to work with wonderful people, and together with my team – my gang make this dream a reality. I met incredible people, discovered extraordinary cultures.
I realised I could make people dream. That’s a frightening feeling. I also learned to have confidence in what I was doing, and that was fantastic, too. Givenchy changed my life and the lives of those I love. That’s what I wanted to express through this show.”
So Tisci indulged himself and invited all his friends. Even guests who didn’t know him felt part of his #love #gang #family community. We Italians live in clans,” he says. I need people I love around me. It’s my base. As a child I was terrorised by the idea that my mother and sisters would die before me and I would be alone in the world. Around this initial gang, my family, I created another gang, my friends, who are, in fact, my family too.
My luxury is to know I will never be alone.”
He works and lives with his friends, and has them pose in his campaigns: Mariacarla Boscono, Joan Smalls, Donatella Versace,
Lea T, Karen Elson, photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Wherever they are in the world, they are there when he calls.
After the show, Tisci joined them in a garage transformed to host a wild party.
In the darkness, a neon sign, an assertion glowed: I believe in the power of love.”
You know how it goes: you meet, you fall hard, you stay devoted for years and then one day the smiling face behind the counter tells you it’s over. No longer available. Discontinued. Finding a beauty soulmate only to have it ghost can be more crushing than seeing your Instagram likes” stuck in single figures.
Rather than let the tears well up, you can relax. Social media has given the people a voice, and if the collective voice shouts (and tweets and ‘grams) loud enough, you might just be able to stage a resuscitation. Be inspired by these formerly defunct buys now mending broken hearts…