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Givenchy SS16 in New York Riccardo Tisci Marina Abramovic
Imaan Hammam (DNA) at Givenchy SS16Photography Hatnim Lee

Five things that went down at Givenchy’s NYC debut

To the sound of chanting, Riccardo Tisci and Marina Abramović staged a show that blended fashion and performance art beneath an impressive NYC sky


For a show about “forgiveness, inclusivity, new life, hope, and above all, love”, it’s only fitting to begin with the stunning sunset that wrapped around Pier 26 in Manhattan as guests arrived. The stretch of light and clouds curled around the pier, and as people rustled, sat and settled the sky offered reprieve and beauty. Models took the runway an hour after the reported time, but it would be inaccurate to say the show started late. The incredible shifting clouds, silvery blue and pink and stacked like palladium, was the start of the show. 


While the event coincides with the opening of the new Givenchy boutique on Madison Avenue, designed by Riccardo Tisci, and the designer’s ten-year anniversary as artistic director at the house, holding the show in New York instead of Paris was also a statement about the force of brands and communities, which in our digital era overpower the pull and prestige of a city. The sense of place and even history of a brand is no longer tied to streets or an atelier, but to people and design. Even those in the audience who had never attended a Givenchy show in Paris felt nostalgia and recognition during the section of the show that was a Tisci couture retrospective-during the decade that the creative director has helmed the house of Givenchy all of his work has been instantly available to masses. His work has never only been seen in Paris. 


The entire set was constructed from recycled materials and debris so that there was no waste in construction and deconstruction. As they entered guests took a seat on still-a-little-dusty stacked crates. On the runway, small house-like structures were fabricated from rusted metal. Staired platforms rose up in the middle of the runway. There was no word on how the baby trees that one performer held out from the top of a set of elevated risers came to be uprooted, but I like to imagine they’ll be potted and transported back to the atelier in Paris, or else will be planted in the garden of a French-language preschool in Brooklyn.

“The sense of place and even history of a brand is no longer tied to streets or an atelier, but to people and design. Tisci’s work has never only been seen in Paris”


Marina Abramović worked with seven performers during the show. Guests seated toward the middle of set felt little drops of water landing on them, and looked up to see a performance artist holding parts of her body under a spigot on the rooftop of one of the metal structures. During the swell of music during the couture retrospective portion of the show, she submerged her entire head. Adjacent to her was another rooftop, where two performers (as the first, dressed in a uniform of a white button town and black trousers) hugged, held hands, gazed into oblivion. Meanwhile, a young man with slicked back black hair (he too was in The Uniform) wandered through the audience as they organised themselves, staring and emoting. All of the performers seemed centred and completely focused, a tremendous offset to the chaos of arrivals at the show. The beginning of the runway portion of the show was signalled with a gong. There were six different phases of music, all from different cultures and religions. The finale walk was to Ave Maria.


There was a duality within Tisci’s collection – the black and white clothes combined elements from the most delicate lingerie and the strongest suiting. Silk tuxedo blazers extended into silk robes, fine sheer lace was layered under starched vests, and tailored shirting was rendered in lace. But there was another contrast: the lush, expensive clothing walking on a set of recycled materials. There was also the noise and heightened energy of the audience, all dressed for the performance of attendance, with the spare, still work of the performers, who held themselves silently over the din of the show arrivals. And finally there was the fact that the show was happening on September 11 in view of the Freedom Tower: a celebration within view of remembrance of a great tragedy.