Givenchy Takes New York
Oh, wow! What a rave! Lights flashing, music pounding, figures who would seem overdressed for Halloween writhing on car bonnets or astride motor bikes in this scrubby car park under Williamsburg Bridge…
All this was the brainchild of Riccardo Tisci, artistic director of the Paris house of Givenchy. The party - with the slogan, "I Believe in the Power of Love" written in neon lights on the outside wall - was Tisci's celebration of 10 years at Givenchy.
But there was another side of Riccardo the same day in New York. A special day: 9/11. As the sun fell on another memorial moment for the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, this saddest of memories was spelt out gracefully in high fashion. Gentle music, live in the open air, saw the players perched on ladders against a set created from recycled materials. It was a way for Givenchy to express, on a pier on the Hudson River in TriBeCa, sweet thoughts about New York's sad times.
The contrast with the later, crazy party could not have been more stark. But Tisci has made a success of Givenchy by incorporating hardcore street style into couture and making a front row out of his hip friends. He has also embraced diversity, on the runway and in the audience, with rare enthusiasm.
Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, 21st-century celebrity royalty, sat front row, her swollen baby bump visible through lacework on the dress.
But the most garish celebs could not distract from the grace of this collection, which had clothes for both women and men. The focus was on the softest side of womanhood, with lace and drape, and satin tops running in silken rivulets, often over loose, flowing trousers. The colourscape was almost entirely black and white. The blend of boudoir and mannish tailoring, of strength and softness, created a collection that walked a fine line.
Following in the footsteps of the original Hubert de Givenchy, who found success in America, Riccardo seemed to see his collection as a gift to New York. There is, of course, a new store on Madison Avenue, where the only edgy touches are blown-up images of Donatella Versace as poster girl.
At the show, models walking along the pier over miniature wooden bridges showed not just a modern version of femininity, but also exquisite handwork. I wondered what front-row guests Michael Kors, Vera Wang and Alexander Wang thought of the craftsmanship that is such a European focus?
The Givenchy show was conceived with the support of Marina Abramovic, a close friend of Tisci. They aimed to create an emotional experience, focusing on the universal theme of love, peace, freedom, humility and spirituality. That included chanting monks and "Ave Maria", from a small choir.
But I could not help thinking of the contrast between the show and the party, both attended by Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, Givenchy's parent company. The big boss must be pleased. For with other historic houses like Balenciaga waiting for a new designer, Tisci has made Givenchy a plausible and desirable source of modern fashion.