Normally FAD Profiles are exclusive interviews. This is an original profile first written by me in 2011 for Plum Magazine. Fascination for Tisci peaked in 2012, and like my post last week, we can feel this is not as relevant but I thought I would bring this back out for the start of Paris fashion week.
YSL at the cusp of the 70s. Versace in the 90s. If we name designers in their glory there is one name for the present - Riccardo Tisci. Tisci (pronounced Tishee) is a modest man from an Italian village who was appointed to the golden throne at Givenchy in 2005. He has since taken the polite French label in a bold and unexpected direction, resulting in revived creativity at LVMH. Combining an ancient sense of holiness with a progressive sense of gender, his rock solid luxury designs have breathed life back into couture.
Riccardo Tisci and Rooney Mara, photo Normal Jean Roy, Vogue, September 2012
Tisci discovered fashion by watching eight older sisters glam it up. But the son of the widow says the absence of a father gave him needed determination. By the mid 90s, he excelled at London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, followed by terms at Puma and Ruffo Research, alongside Haider Ackerman. Then finally in 2004, Tisci debuted his first collection, winning over Bernard Arnault who invited him to Givenchy couture, prêt-à-porter, and men’s collections. The best stories are those in which the protagonist is propelled to greatness and delivers. This is one of those stories that has left the fashion industry in awe of Tisci’s incomparable designs.
“For me,” explains Ceclia Dean, founder of Visionaire, religion “is where he comes from, what drives him, what influences his work.” Raised Catholic, Tisci speaks openly about his faith and gothic aesthetics - virginal white in spring, dark intensity in fall. The concept of the divine was also Tisci’s drive with Visionaire. Dean explains: “We started talking to Riccardo Tisci about guest editing an issue of Visionaire and he immediately proposed RELIGION. At our first meeting to brainstorm the issue’s content and direction, he brought in a box of hundreds of inspirational images. He had a clear vision of how to start it and it was up to us to adopt that vision and make it happen. I see Visionaire 60 RELIGION as an extension of Riccardo’s mind.”
from Visionaire 60 Religion
Director of Fashion at Ecole Parsons à Paris, Sibylle Klose, also observes Tisci’s “spiritual mind set,” but suggests, “he is adding a meta-level to it.” He has brought his point of view to an old fashioned house with an outdated icon, Audrey Hepburn. Tisci has attracted a number of contemporary superwomen such as Madonna, Björk, Courtney Love, model Mariacarla Boscono, and artist Marinia Abromovic, but he has aimed the Givenchy spotlight on Brazilian transgender model Lea T. He has also selected a more globally diverse ethnic representation for his models. Klose suggests that Tisci is working with “various facets of contemporary feminism and the aesthetic fusion of divergent aspects of lifestyle.” The result is surprising; Givenchy now represents “a strong vision of postmodern feminism.”
Tisci merges the sacred and sexual. He explained to Interview his love for “all that is transgressive and vulgar,” but his work remains tasteful and chic. While other designers speak of empowering sexy women, Tisci’s offerings are unspoken, and intense with subtle power. There is no need for the garment to assert itself like an alpha female; this is for a rare and commanding breed of woman. His garments give us everything we want from a woman (softness, elegance, detail) but with the strength and security of a man (bold forms, structure, depth). The contrast creates an underlying tension to his garments. The clothes are appropriate but also sensual, suggesting a pent-up sexuality that can only be unleashed by undressing. This game of seduction has made him a French favorite, which is rare for an Italian designer.
Tisci by Steven Klein for Interview
The consistent style mix of incompatible signs lead many to describe Tisci as the dj of fashion. Tisci’s love of music is just as diverse, from Iron Maiden to Antony and the Johnsons, as well as Jay-Z and Kayne West. But the mixing common to music is more daring for couture in that it does not necessarily honor the DNA of the brand, but it does push it forward. Tisci’s ability to mix international influences comes at a moment when LVMH is increasingly global. Combining inspirations, while still delivering flawless luxury has made Tisci a favorite to take over Arnault’s beloved Dior. Tisci proudly boasted about his ability to develop couture. “When I arrived” he told The New York Times, “we had five customers. Now we have 29." Those clients are likely expanding in the emerging markets – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Couture is no longer exclusively Parisian or red carpet clients, and it can only continue if it considers global aesthetics. Yet Tisci is definitely not creating a corporate product; he is satisfying a diverse set of women by delivering a dream world.
In his Parisian apartment, Tisci’s taxidermy collection includes a fabricated unicorn, symbolic for a man who seems compelled by the possibility of what could exist. The underlying force of his designs is making visible what we want to wear, but just do not know it yet. This is the great prophetic role of fashion itself, of which Tisci seems gifted. His ability to unite forms into new visions has been described as postmodern alchemy. We no longer see things in a linear modern way. A woman is no longer a singular, perfected form, just as a dress is no longer one form. Succeeding in our contemporary moment of excess, requires a timeless affection for the cloth and its endless potential.
Givenchy F 2013
Tisci fascinates, not only because of the integrity of his design, but also because he challenges fashion and its sense of greatness. When Hubert de Givenchy dressed Hepburn, he confirmed dreams of an ideal woman in an ideal black dress. Tisci shows us to expect more from a brand, that it can grow, along with our understanding of what is ideal. So for all the broken fashion hearts dismayed by the loss of McQueen and downfall of Galliano, Tisci is renewing the faith. Young Parisian designer Calla Haynes, formally at the house of Rochas, explains that Tisci has brought new energy. “For me, he is a true 21st century couturier. It's very exciting to see that couture has a future. As a young designer, I admire Tisci's bravery in entering the house of Givenchy and I admire his powerful vision that gave the house such a strong story. It's definitely not an easy job, and he does it with quiet grace that at the same time rocks the fashion world so deeply.”