This article titled “Givenchy debut at New York fashion week: diversity wins out over patriotism” was written by Lauren Cochrane in New York, for theguardian.com on Saturday 12th September 2015 02.39 UTC
For Givenchy’s first show at a New York fashion week on Friday evening – 11 September, the anniversary of the city’s 2001 terror attacks – it must have been tempting for creative director Riccardo Tisci to send out a collection packed full of stars and stripes.
But, as the fashion world should know by now, that is not Tisci’s style. This is a man full of surprises – one who put Donatella Versace in his advertising campaigns and almost single-handedly made the sweater a high fashion staple.
Here, he kept the Americanisms to the minimum – an abstracted American flag in shiny black appeared on the black jackets of suits worn by male models, a whisper rather than a scream.
Instead of pure patriotism, Tisci’s American Dream was about bringing different cultures together – something that makes sense to those who know the Italian-born designer as a rare voice pushing diversity in fashion, across race and gender.
This inclusive attitude was made explicit in the audience which numbered Tisci’s gang – Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Jennifer Hudson, Karen Elson and Liv Tyler – as well as more than a thousand students who had won tickets to the show.
If all the buzz in the build-up had been about Caitlyn Jenner attending – or possibly walking the runway – those disappointed would perhaps have been satisfied by a different kind of performance.
Working with friend and artist Marina Abramović, this was a fashion show on a grand conceptual scale. The huge set consisted of recycled metal panels nailed together, and featured several live performance art set-ups, including a woman standing under a stream of running water and a man holding tree branches, as a symbol of “support and life force”.
There was also live music, which featured Tibetan monks chanting and a rendition of Ave Maria for the finale.
While it took place on a pier on the Hudson River, flanked by skyscrapers, this was hardly the usual tourist holiday snap fodder.
The collection itself, late to the runway by an hour, was extensive and contrasted the performance art with some commercial clothes.
The decamping of the show for this essentially Parisian house to New York – the first time that the house has shown out of the French capital in more than 60 years – is ostensibly to mark the new store opening on Madison Avenue, and this was a showcase of all the clothes that will fill it come spring 2016.
This year also marks 10 years of Tisci at Givenchy and there was something of the retrospective in the first part of the show. It featured slinky, beautifully cut silk and lace slips worn with slouchy black trousers, and dressing gown-style coats in a colour palette of black and white, sometimes with bandage-style tops.
While there were some more dramatic looks – including a beautiful gown of balled-up tulle that threatened to floor catwalk veteran Joan Smalls, and some intricately beaded headpieces – the overall takeaway was a loungey, louche aesthetic that could easily translate to what young women might wear after dark. The tailoring for men and women, meanwhile, was smart enough to be worn whenever, wherever.
While there wasn’t anything entirely new here, as is often the case on a Givenchy catwalk, Tisci played up smart by sticking to a formula he has honed over those 10 years – one that brings what people wear on the street together with high fashion.
The designer, a relative unknown Central Saint Martins graduate when the appointment was announced, has steered Givenchy – in the doldrums in 2005 – to its current position as arguably the Parisian fashion house with cool factor. This show is Tisci’s latest move to retain that crown.
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