No other designer in fashion today manages to inject as many of his personal obsessions into his fashion as Riccardo Tisci, whose runway display for the house of Givenchy on Friday, June 29, in Paris was the most memorable moment of the Continental season so far.
Several major influences play key roles in Tisci - extended Mediterranean culture high tech sportswear, street style and religion. In this spring 2013 collection, the spiritual stimuli ruled. One could sense that literally walking into the show - vapor machines wafted out a synthetic odor that uncannily mimicked a medieval cathedral. The pre-show music was by a church pipe organ.
Almost half the looks featured printed sacred images - Christ on the cross, devout saints and haloed churchmen. Though being Tisci, he took the devotional idea somewhere suggestively new.
Using a mammoth catwalk of 120 yards added to the sense of religious ceremony in a procession that alternated between the graphic prints and hyper sharp tailoring. Here again, the priestly collars, breastplates, and holy vestments were subtly distorted, so the devout references became edgily charged. Instead of restrained men of the church we got sexy sacristans, naughty clerics.
Tisci showed both men and women in a very large casting of some 60 models, and though the women were largely covered up too, there was a sexual frisson throughout.
"Bauhaus, Holy Communion, back to my roots," Tisci said backstage.
His Givenchy studio team had researched Old Masters oil paintings, revamping and remixing the originals into a college of fashion able cardinals. The Italian-born designer even used the same sort of brocade priests use in religious ceremonies, though printed with saintly faces.
Tisci showed in groups of four or five, so, for instance, the same orthodox icon might first be printed on a surgeon's tunic, stamped on a chiffon veil top, redone in black and white on a T-Shirt and emblazoned onto black dinner shirts - the whole ensemble like a visual liturgy.
Duchesse satin trench coats with venerable faces peeping from the print and layered outfits - satin bomber jackets, extended shirt and leggings, all anchored by gold chain trimmed athletic water running shoes, added to the sense of edgy modernity. This season, Givenchy is Europe's most accomplished show.