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Givenchy AW16
Backstage at Givenchy AW16Photography Chloé Le Drezen

Givenchy gets inspired by African heavy metal fans

Suede boots, Wild West fringing and septum rings: the designer pays tribute to freedom through the lens of Botswana

When you think of heavy metal fans, you probably don’t picture Botswanans. Despite the odds, the country has a niche but thriving subculture, where music devotees dress up their band t-shirts with biker leathers, Wild West fringing and cowboy hats. It was South African photographer Frank Marshall’s images of these people (his Botswana Renegades series) that formed the starting point of Riccardo Tisci’s AW16 collection for Givenchy menswear, a tribute that featured hissing cobras, suede boots and warped album cover style prints.

“I looked in the book and saw these gangs, their freedom – it was something very new for me,” Tisci admitted backstage of discovering Marshall’s work, which causes Western viewers to both question their own stereotypical views of Africa and consider the way that subcultures can change and adapt free of their original contexts. Freedom was the key word that underpinned the collection, with the designer incorporating symbolic American flags (something he’s been collecting for decades) and also taking reference from the DIY punks of Berlin – club kids whose spirit represents “the punk of today”. Their presence could be felt in the models’ hair, which was cropped and shaved in a way that was almost monk-like – especially when paired with long black coats. 

You can always rely on Tisci for a casting as diverse as his references, and that was certainly the case this season – although he did go down a slightly different route to normal. “Well, I decided to change it a little bit,” he began, describing how he switched the focus to the idea of a “new generation”. When it came to the girls of the show, modelling the house’s latest couture, Tisci favourite Mariacarla Boscono took a front row seat next to Travis Scott, and Naomi was nowhere in sight. Instead, the designer’s current young breed of model muses (including Lineisy Montero, Lexi Boling, Issa Lish and Sarah Brannon) stole the show, embodying the “romantic and sensual” vision of Tisci’s designs in full-length gowns of lace and glittering embellishment, in a few case accessorised with furs that hung off the shoulder. “This time it was a younger and harder look for a woman, stronger,” he said – which explained their vampish, red-ringed eyes.

As for the Men, the show featured more striking, street-cast looking models rather than Tisci’s usual gang of strapping Adonises (although some of them were also in attendance). There were septum rings, bleached hair and eyebrows, plugged ears. “The idea was to get new characters who had this sort of identity, so I went around the world and saw all these kids and their beauty and their strength. It’s all about having a strong identity, so I fell in love with that.” Worry not though – the Givenchy boys aren’t gone forever. “I’m still faithful to my boys!” Tisci smiled. “I’m sure they’re going to come back, my boys!”