Challenging the status quo of fashion and paying tribute to an emotional day for America – Susie Bubble gets Tisci and Abramović’s word on their radical public show
“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 and 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. 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 this gamechanger of a show. 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 attempted to reach out to everyone, 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.
“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” – Riccardo Tisci
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 demonstrated that being physically present at a fashion show is the final frontier, up for public consumption. Last night, it was about a gesture of generous goodwill 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 an infectious sort, that feels rare in amongst the seasoned (and somewhat jaded) fashion industry audience.
Still, notching up likes and selling clothes didn’t feel like the end game here. We weren’t present to witness celebrity fuelled performances or brash razzmatazz. The two columns of light beaming up from Ground Zero reminded us of that. Backstage after the show, Marina Abramović, Tisci’s creative collaborator, who was responsible for curating 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 an hour before the show began, there was plenty of time to take in the installations 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 Abramović 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.”
“Water is very important. You have to clean yourself, you have to forgive and put the pain behind you” – Marina Abramović
You couldn’t help but recall another instance where commerciality collided with the universality of love. Coca Cola’s groundbreaking “Hilltop” ad in 1971, widely regarded as the most well loved ad of all time, featured a harmony-seeking multiculturalism, much like the uniting of five religions in the soundtrack of the Givenchy show. The pairing of perceived spirituality and a fashion brand could have so easily left an uneasy taste in your mouth, but by centring the show around fundamental pillars of life such 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.”
The 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 a towering sign that said “I believe in the power of love.” Sobriety gave way instead to full on revelry with Leigh Bowery-esque drag queens and fierce dancers writhing around on cars, inviting a deluge of selfies and Snapchat vids. Tisci set out to share the love and that’s exactly what went down.