As the designer leaves the house he’s headed up for 12 years, we reflect on his groundbreaking tenure
This afternoon, news broke that Italian designer Riccardo Tisci is leaving the house of Givenchy after 12 years as its artistic director. Announced less than two weeks after his AW17 menswear show (which we now understand to have been his last), the split is said to be “mutual and amicable”, while the designer is rumoured to be heading to Versace. Throughout his tenure at Givenchy, he enthralled the industry with his unique vision and dark romanticism. In the wake of his departure, we recall some of favourite things about his time as the house’s artistic director – from his agenda-setting casting choices to his innovative designs.
CASTING LEA T
Long before trans models were a relatively common sight on the runway, Tisci cast his longtime personal assistant Lea T in his AW11 womenswear show. One of his key muses, the designer enlisted her to walk in seven further shows and star in two campaigns – including SS17 (which was unveiled last month) in which T could be seen wearing black tailored jacket and agate pendant suspended from a tortoiseshell chain.
JULIA ROBERTS’ CAMPAIGN
Another headline-making casting choice was Julia Roberts, who Tisci selected to star in his SS15 campaign, shot by legendary photographic duo Mert and Marcus. Interestingly, the designer wanted the actress to appear in the imagery au naturale, without wearing any dramatic make-up. And that wasn’t all – “I said to her, 'Because your smile is so beautiful and everybody knows you for that, I think it should be no smile,” he said in an interview with Style.com.
HIS VIRAL GRAPHICS
Tisci is credited with injecting a certain street-led sensibility into the storied fashion house of Givenchy. This was perhaps most clearly epitomised in his famous Rottweiler t-shirt for AW11, emblazoned with the snarling face of said dog breed, and his ‘Pervert 17’ designs for Pre-AW13 – both of which were sell-outs and became Givenchy mainstays. It has to be said – only Tisci could make a collaged Bambi picture high fashion, as he did in AW13 collection.
HIS DAZED COVER
While it’s normal for designers’ handiwork to appear on the cover of Dazed, it’s less common for designers themselves to do so. But Tisci did, starring on the cover of our 20th anniversary issue, photographed by Matthew Stone and styled by our then-fashion director Katy England who has styled Givenchy’s shows since 2012. The image was the leading shot from a cover shoot which he guest art directed that included bikes, an empty swimming pool, and even a pair of snakes.
KIM’S WEDDING DRESS
When it comes to the most iconic wedding dresses of all time, first there was Princess Di’s, then there was Kim’s (let’s be real, they are pretty much the only two that matter). Mrs Kardashian-West’s gown was designed by Tisci for Givenchy couture and allegedly cost over half a million dollars. The image of her wearing the dress was, for a time, the most-liked Instagram photo of all time – it currently has a grand total of 2,498,659 likes.
DONATELLA VERSACE’S CAMPAIGN
Another major moment was when he selected the reigning queen of Italian glamour, close pal Donatella Versace, to star in his AW15 campaign. “I approached my friend Donatella because she represents what a fashion icon is to me,” he commented. “We thought it was time to break boundaries and give a strong message about how to think fashion.” Designers have starred in their own campaigns, but this felt like a first. (Side note: Tisci is currently tipped to take over at Versace, though the house has denied the fact.)
ERYKAH BADU’S CAMPAIGN
The final casting choice we want to mention is the godmother of soul and the designer’s “dream icon”, Erykah Badu, who appeared in the house’s SS14 campaign which was again shot by Mert and Marcus. As you can see from this image, Tisci was incorporating Old English fonts into his designs long before anyone else – proof of his pioneering talent.
A recurring theme throughout Tisci’s tenure at Givenchy was his celebration of and close friendships with strong women. In addition to Lea T, Julia Roberts, Donatella Versace and Erykah Badu who we’ve already mentioned, there’s performance artist Marina Abramović who, in addition to starring in a campaign, art directed his SS16 show. Staged in New York, this outing was made all the more radical by the fact that the house invited 1,200 members of the public to attend.
Read a head-to-head between Marina Abramović and Riccardo Tisci here.
THE GIVENCHY GANG
Over the last few years, there have been two gangs ruling the fashion roost – the #BalmainArmy and the Givenchy gang. Tisci’s troupe were a group of strong models that included Lea T, of course, Mariacarla Boscono (another one of his favourite muses), Joan Smalls, Naomi Campbell and Irina Shayk among others. Throughout his time at Givenchy, Tisci remained a fierce proponent of racial diversity – “People can be so avant-garde, so advanced,” he said in an interview with style.com, “but actually not, because people are still making differences between skin colour.”
HIS FACIAL PIERCINGS
Something that Tisci will definitely be remembered for is his experimentation with jewellery, particularly those oversized septum rings that came encrusted with crystals and pearls. First appearing in the designer’s SS12 couture show, these rings went on to appear in several more of the designer’s shows, and will remain one of his most recognisable designs.