Arts & Style

Tisci leaves 12-year legacy behind in couture brand Givenchy

The fashion world has been going through hectic changes. Many famous designers are ending their long-term relationships with big-name brands and are either switching to another brands or embarking on a journey of their own. On Feb. 2, Givenchy’s creative director of 12 years, Riccardo Tisci, announced his departure from the legendary brand. In his official statement, Tisci confessed, “I now wish to focus on my personal interests and passions.” For Givenchy, Tisci’s exit will have a very detrimental and tragic effect. The fashion house’s vision, status and relationship with the public are all a product of Tisci’s hard work and unique talent. Established by Hubert de Givenchy in 1952, Givenchy became the standard of poised style, elegance and grace.

After Givenchy himself stepped down as the creative director in 1995, the brand was having a hard time finding a new distinct voice. When Tisci arrived at Givenchy, the brand was facing an identity crisis, lacking a sense of direction. Between 1995 and 2005, the brand hired young designers such as John Galliano, Juliann McDonald and Alexander McQueen. Although all three of these designers went on to have highly successful careers, they all failed to bring new life to Givenchy. Galliano went to Dior, McDonald was grasping too much at the brand’s past glory and McQueen’s designs were too provocative. Givenchy needed a savior—somebody who was ready to move into the future while remembering to honor the past. The brand took a chance on the 30-year-old Italian designer, Tisci, and the risk was worth it.

Tisci’s own Catholic and Southern background was a fresh addition to a French brand that had been supervised by British designers for over a decade. His love for everything gothic fit with the classical grandeur of Givenchy, but was much different from his predecessors. McQueen’s idea of gothic was depressing and decadent, while Tisci focused on two things—religious mysticism and nocturnal sexiness. He was mesmerized by how vulnerable people are when they are in bed at night, whether they are praying or sinning. In his first solo collection, he astounded audiences with a funeral-like show. In a haunting darkness with the light coming from a gigantic cross, his models appeared out of the smoke dressed in gothic black dresses, long coats reminiscent of Catholic robes and leather jackets that looked like human skin with fresh scars on it. Tisci continued these patterns in his work for Givenchy, thus popularizing Gothicism in the way that fashion had never seen before. His clothes are feminist to the core.

He distanced himself from the signature elegant chastity that was made iconic by Audrey Hepburn and Jacqueline Kennedy and made his women a product of today’s world—vocal, sensual and independent. He quickly gained the admiration of celebrities such as Beyonce, Madonna and Rihanna, who embraced all of the things that Tisci wanted to see in his women. Kim Kardashian West became Givenchy’s new Hepburn. Kardashian West was Tisci’s muse and he made her a style icon, bringing her to the heights of the fashion business. Kardashian West famously wore Givenchy’s wedding dress on the cover of Vogue—an official welcome into the fashion world. Tisci was able to revolutionize Givenchy by making the brand more democratic and progressive, yet keeping it luxurious and desirable.

In 2012, he created a collection of oversized sweatshirts with aggressive roaring Rottweiler prints on them, which became a massive hit. Kanye West wore these sweatshirts everywhere and the styles quickly became the object of plagiarism by brands like Zara. That was one of the biggest signs of Tisci’s success. In 2014, Tisci collaborated with Nike and created a collection of sneakers, Nike Air Force 1, alas bringing the long-anticipated union of high fashion and sportswear. He defied stereotypes. For the Givenchy fall-winter 2010 collection, Tisci included transgender model Lea T, thus marking the openness of brands to hire people from the LGBT community. The “T” in Lea T stands for Tisci, as the designer became the fashion godfather to a revolutionary model.

In 2015, Tisci organized the very first open runway show for a major brand. The show was held on Sept. 11 in New York and was produced together with artist Marina Abramovic. A beautiful dedication to the victims of 9/11 and a triumphant ode to life, the show offered the residents of the Hudson River area and certain fashion students tickets for free, while others were able to purchase them online. Such an inspiring relationship with the public was crucial to the brand’s lasting success over the past 12 years. In 2005, Givenchy was in economic turmoil, with only seven stores open around the world. Now, there are 72 free-standing stores worldwide, with additional stores scheduled to open in Rome and London.

Overall sales have increased six times since Tisci joined the brand to almost $600 million annually and the number of employees has increased from 290 in 2005 to 930 in 2016. When Givenchy created his own brand in 1952, he excited the fashion world with his novel collection of jackets and blouses made from raw cotton. Fifty years later, Tisci was able to make Givenchy great again by preserving its aristocratic lines, but modernizing them with a dark and mysterious sensuality and a constant desire to innovate.

It is unsure if Tisci will be focusing on his brand or, according to rumors, will be joining competitor Versace. However, his name and his work will go down in history and be forever encrypted in the legacy of one of the most admirable French brands in the world.

February 14, 2017

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