You know how it goes down during fashion week. I start penning for other people like my life depends on it so here is an expanded version of the piece I wrote for Dazed Digital on the poignant Givenchy show that took place last night:
“It was a celebration of my ten years at Givenchy but more to the point, it was a celebration of life. How we all arrived together an made Givenchy happen. How friendships carried us through. On this day, it had to be about love and doing something on the street. It had to be something real, something for everybody and not just seventy people.” That was an ambitious missive for Riccardo Tisci to pull off for this one off Givenchy show staged in New York’s Hudson Park on a pier. Sharing and love are big words to throw around for a fashion house but perhaps by not shying away from the memorial of 9/11 and constructing the show around this difficult day, this would be a moment that would get more eyeballs properly glued to what was happening just by virtue of how universal the themes were.
It also felt significant for Givenchy to open the fashion month, with a show that was deployed with what has been seen as a game-changing tactic. Earlier in the week, Vanessa Friedman had written a piece in the New York Times about the restructuring and reshaping of New York Fashion Week to facilitate the broadcasting of fashion shows to the world. Pierre Rougier, owner of PR Consulting was quoted to say: “This heralds the officialisation of fashion as entertainment.” And entertainment is what this Givenchy show was, even on this sombre occasion. It will go down as a watershed moment when fashion at the highest level (and it doesn’t get higher than a historic French maison) truly reached out to a more widespread audience, as people watched the show on screens erected all over the city from Soho to Times Square and of course the lucky 800, who had signed up for a ticketed spot on the pier to experience the show collectively with the eyes of the industry and friends of the house.
Fuelling public demand will be an agenda that even the loftiest of brands will find hard to resist and it made you wonder whether eventually one day every fashion show will be ticketed with public allocations. Could it even potentially be a bonus revenue stream for houses – maybe a thousand quid for a frow seat? Fashion week being up for sale is nothing new but this Givenchy show demonstrated that being physically present at a fashion show is certainly the final frontier, up for public consumption. Last night, we saw a gesture of generous goodwill towards the public that clearly worked. The eager onlookers gasped, cheered and clapped at every strategically timed celebrity arrival (with Kimye of course eliciting the loudest cheers) and their enthusiasm is infectious – something that feels rare in amongst the seasoned (and somewhat jaded) fashion crowd.
Still, notching up likes and hashtags and pushing clothes didn’t feel like the true end game here. We weren’t there to witness celebrity fuelled performances or brash razz-ma-tazz with easy-on-the-eye Insta moments. The two columns of light beaming up from Ground Zero reminded us of that. Backstage after the show, Marina Abramovic, Tisci’s artistic collaborator on the show, who was responsible for creating the performance piece that preceded the show admitted it hadn’t been their original intention to show on the anniversary of 9/11. “We were given the date and so we had to deal with it and of course it was a difficult day to deal with. So then we really created all the ideas for the day.” With guests arriving more than an hour before the show began, there was plenty of time to take in the pertinent and moving performances high up on plinths. A man climbing slowly up the stairs, which represented “new hope and a new beginning. Another holding two young trees, which Abramovic likened to the twin towers, sprouting up from the ground once again. “The most beautiful one for me was the woman underneath the water,” said Abramovic. “Water is very important. You have to clean yourself, you have to forgive and put the pain behind you.”
You couldn’t help but recall another instance where commerciality collided with the universality of love. Coca Cola’s groundbreaking 1971 “Hilltop” ad, widely regarded as the most well loved ad of all time, featured a harmony-seeking multicultural crowd, much like the uniting of five religions in the soundtrack of the Givenchy show that scaled from a Hebrew prayer to a rendition of Ave Maria. The pairing of perceived spirituality and a fashion brand could have so easily left an uneasy taste in your mouth but by centering the show around such fundamental pillars of life as love, peace and hope for the future, it was impossible not to be touched by the sentiment. Lest we thought we were drinking the Givenchy kool aid, Tisci himself was clearly drunk on love. “This was a very honest collection. It was a collection full of love especially as the main inspiration was the bride and groom. I’m in a very romantic moment of my life right now and I’m very blessed.”
With the exception of a smattering of haute couture looks, heavy with the most ornate of leather patchwork, shell like beading and gradiated feather work, the collection was a-flutter with slip dresses and the lightest of lace in black and white. The womenswear looks had a vulnerability to them with their lingerie nuances, counterparted by the menswear and the tuxedo tailoring. What we saw might have been straightforward reworkings of a bride and groom’s attire but the love being promoted went beyond a man to woman heterosexual bond but also expressed the love between man and man, woman and woman, friend and friend, family and family.
That expression of love carried on late into the evening. Later that night, at the afterparty staged in a refashioned car park, over 2,000 invited guests (again fuelled by public participation) flocked towards illuminated lights spelling out “I believe in the power of love.” Sobriety gave way to full on revelry with Leigh-Bowery esque drag queens and fi-erce dancers writhing around on cars, inviting a deluge of selfies and Snap Chat vids. You couldn’t quite tell what you were walking into with almost zero Givenchy branding present. You could barely detect the LVMH presence and that went down like a treat with the crowd. Tisci set out to share the love and that’s exactly what we got.