Opinion: dissecting Givenchy's car crash set

With a highly sexual and dramatic show, did Riccardo Tisci pay homage to fetish film, Crash?

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Yesterday, upon entering the Givenchy show space in Paris, we were confronted by a horrific car crash. Shards of glass were littered across the floor, vehicles were disturbingly intertwined and for the duration of the show, masses of smoke emerged from the wreckage. This wasn’t just a prop, or some sort of spectacle; the installation felt alive – steaming, pulsating and exuding a strange sort of energy.

an undercurrent of fetishism ran through the collection

It was only when the models began circling the wreckage, skin on show and draped in fabric so tight that it revealed every inch of body, that it raised the possibility that this season Riccardo Tisci was aligning sex and destruction. As his spectacular collection unraveled and hypnotic smoke continued to fill the show space, David Cronenberg’s highly charged 1996 film Crash came to mind. It’s a film that deals with sexual taboos. More importantly, it explores one that’s still very controversial – car crash sex, the sexual gratification from potential life-destroying events. 

Much like Crash, an undercurrent of fetishism ran through the collection. Tisci’s models emerged on the runway concealed under a mass of Swarovski crystals. From a distance, it appeared to be some sort of mask – which suggestively only left their mouths exposed – but it soon became apparent that this was the result of a strange and almost ritualistic 12-hour transformation process. Then came the body harnesses, another exercise into restriction, and the collections’ metallic colour palette – a cross section of yellows, reds and silvers which evoked the trance-like state of terror and shock. Imagine all the blurring colours you would witness mid crash. It ignited a sense of chaos and disorder, much like the scene of the wreckage itself.

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Film still from Crash, 1996
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Givenchy SS14 set Photography by Lea Colombo

But to be clear, this collection was not about car crash sex. However, Tisci’s decision to use a smoking crash as the backdrop for the collection wasn’t an impromptu one – it was a statement. When you think about the other great shows we’ve seen in Paris – Comme des Garçons for example, where Rei Kawakubo sent out her collection to a disruptive and highly uncomfortable soundtrack (leaving everyone on edge) – none offered such dangerous or destructive offerings. What Tisci achieved yesterday was something else entirely. He forced his audiences to align two components – beauty and harrowing devastation.

Tisci had left us fetishising the crash

By the end of the show, as audiences rushed to the crash installation to begin taking photographs, I couldn’t help but think that Tisci had left us fetishising the crash. We’d spent the last thirty minutes watching it, accepting that this kind of destruction had a place in fashion. And enjoying it. Much like Cronenberg's characters, who fetishise cars and the sexual high of a crash experience, had we just succumbed to the same taboo?

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Givenchy SS14 Photography by Lea Colombo
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Film still from Crash, 1996
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Film still from Crash, 1996
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Film still from Crash, 1996
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Film still from Crash, 1996
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