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Backstage at Givenchy SS16Photography Virginia Arcaro

What Givenchy’s public show means for fashion

Riccardo Tisci has revealed that his hotly-anticipated New York event with Marina Abramoviç will be open to all – here’s why it’s such a powerful gesture

Last night, Givenchy announced that their much anticipated AW15 show (hosted in New York rather than the usual Paris) had one more – pretty major – reason for people to look forward to it: it’s going to be open to the public. Art directed both by artistic director Riccardo Tisci and Marina Abramoviç, there will be over 800 tickets released online on a first-come, first-served basis, with a further 100 given to those who live near to the (still unknown) venue and 280 offered to students at the city’s fashion schools.

The news has attracted widespread attention from both excited fashion fans and industry vets – PR maven Kelly Cutrone took to Instagram to express her thoughts on the announcement, writing that, “Finally, fashion opens its doors to the public... They saw the times and it opened up their eyes.” She’s right – if anything, this new move embodies and embraces the spirit of a changing fashion industry, revolutionised by the impact of the internet and the democratising power of social media.

Back in 2009, when Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio first streamed Alexander McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis show, blasting out live footage of the runway across the ether and to the laptops of eager viewers worldwide, fashion changed – the bubble that had sealed off the industry in its aura of exclusivity burst. Instead of just a few shaky camera phone pictures posted onto Twitter, here was the show in all its glory. Technology had championed (even if the site did crash thanks to the amount of visitors). Live streams soon became the norm, with Instagram providing round the clock insider coverage of shows, and the development of apps like Periscope meaning that anyone with an internet connection could have a front row seat. What’s more, access to spaces previously inaccessible could seemingly be bought by anyone with enough social media influence – bloggers and street style stars, as well as critics, became guests of choice.

“This new move embodies and embraces the spirit of a changing fashion industry, revolutionised by the impact of the internet and the democratising power of social media”

But not everyone has been happy with this turn of events – recent years have seen a nostalgic desire to return to the industry’s former exclusivity. As The Cut asked in late 2013, “Will Getting Rid of ‘Fashion Bloggers’ Return Fashion Week to Its Former Glory?”. Some certainly seemed to think so, and resort shows are a case in point – a select few guests are jetted around the world (Dubai, Seoul, the French Riviera, Palm Springs...) for shows that are more like cultural experiences than the usual manic ten minute presentation. 

This shift towards a public space isn’t new – brands have been flirting with them for decades (see Margiela’s seminal SS90 show that took place in a children’s playground). More recently, Hood By Air drew crowds when they showed their SS16 collection outside the sculptural silver Philharmonie de Paris, while Gucci shut off a New York street for their cruise show – although eager members of the public were kept back from getting too close. For their menswear show in June, Givenchy too dipped their toes into the ‘real world’ – they revealed the show’s location on Instagram, meaning crowds gathered, desperate to snap a picture of Naomi Campbell or Kendall Jenner

“That location was adjacent to the park,” Givenchy chief executive officer Philippe Fortunato told WWD, revealing the decision to reveal the show’s whereabouts had been something of an experiment to prepare for the New York show. “You had the metal fences, separating the public from the show, you had hundreds of people watching the show, taking pictures. We wanted to see how the public would behave in a fashion environment. It was a form of rehearsal.”

That level of public interaction is precisely what the show is about, and is why Givenchy’s move is so interesting: rather than giving the power to the Insta-celebs, it’s seeking to connect with the public on a real, personal level. People won’t be selected on the strength of their own influence, but their love of the brand, their determination to get on that website the second it goes live and sign up for a ticket. Where once people could only connect with fashion’s loftiest heights though the screens on their phones, they will be able to experience the moment for themselves in the flesh. Of course, Marina Abramoviç’s own art has dealt with these themes – her famous performance piece “The Artist Is Present” inviting members of the public to come and simply gaze into her eyes.

So will the public fashion show become the new normal? Only time will tell. But a move like this makes a powerful statement – and if one thing’s for sure, Riccardo Tisci is just the man to pull it off.