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Exclusive Riccardo Tisci Interview

The creative director of the French fashion house delves into the art of couture

The October issue of Dazed & Confused celebrates what underlies the 'craft of fashion'. Now, for our Dazed Digital relaunch, who better than to speak to than the creative director of power house Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci, who delves into his art of Haute Couture and how he defines it. The influential designer talks about how he sees the purest form of fashion, Couture and Givenchy's recent masterpiece for Haute Couture A/W 2010.

Dazed Digital: This season you've gone back to the house's roots, presenting in the traditional salon style with an installation. Do you think this style is better suited to the art of couture?
Riccardo Tisci:
I think the presentation was a big success – it was very strong. When I started to do this I was really scared, to be honest, and worried how people would react. When I do a show I have such high emotion; the energy is amazing – but, people don’t really see the details and the work and the experimentation that we, the designers, put into the clothes. With prêt-à-porter you’re having a look. This season maybe low-crotch trousers with a very tight knitwear jacket is fashionable, but for next season perhaps I’ll decide that neoprene trousers with a super-big shirt is the fashion – you give an injection of style. But with couture you have faithfulness – people are faithful to you. In couture, you will see that the cut looks like a lace dress from a distance, but it’s only when you get nearer you understand that it’s layers of lace, hand stitched in a certain shape, all the work – the zips, the buttons, the hooks… it goes on.

DD: Why is the intimacy of a tête-à-tête important for the presentation of a couture collection in particular?
Riccardo Tisci:I thought there would be people saying, “Oh, you’re not doing a show!’ But actually I was really surprised because everybody loved it; everybody loved to spend time with me and my team, to live in the Givenchy moment. The new concept from now on, every season, is that we will do an installation. Each season will be a new inspiration and we’ll find a new way to see my family ­– this is why I wanted to shoot this big family portrait.

DD: What, in your own words, is the definition of couture?
Riccardo Tisci: Couture is emotion. Couture is freedom. Couture is not thinking about pricing and not thinking about craziness. You can do whatever you want to do in couture. The couture client wants the latest things, but she wants the clothes to be super-special – the fabrics won’t even touch or go near anything like prêt-à-porter. I also believe that couture is not about shocking. When I was young, especially when I was at school, I thought couture was about big gowns, big hats (that is couture as well, of course) – but my couture is about going near the clothes and having a look at the details. I like people to have a shock in a chic way.

DD: How many fittings do you normally do with each couture client, and are you personally involved? Can you tell us about that process of building a personal relationship with your couture clients?
Riccardo Tisci:I have one person with me, and we work together. I usually do the first fitting with the team and the ambassador of couture (kind of like a seller) – she represents the maison. And then I do the final fitting because the client wants me there. They’re not spoilt, they really understand that you’re very busy, but they just want you to say what you think – for just ten minutes. They really want to know your opinion because it really is a service at the end of the day, a luxury service. It’s something I really enjoy. I think, “God bless me,” you know? I’m really lucky to be here. These five years as a couturier have really changed my way of seeing fashion and my confidence with fashion. Couture is a dream.

DD: When you first began with the couture, was there quite an established team? When you hear about the way couture works, it’s always stories of little old ladies sewing, and you know they’ve been doing these things for their whole life and it’s very much a craftsmanship. Is that the way it works with Givenchy?
Riccardo Tisci: In the beginning, to be honest I was super-scared. I turned up and took a step back and said, ‘I am here to learn,’ and I feel the same today. I’ve got only to learn from these people because they have been doing couture for 30 or 40 years, so I keep learning every season.

DD: This season’s intricate creations include superstitious symbols from the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, and a lot of the heavy embellishment is seen on the back of the garments – tell us why the back is important for you.
Riccardo Tisci:This is very much part of my style, I work a lot on the back ­– I love the back of clothes for men. I love even T-shirts printed behind. I think, “Why do you want to show only the front?”

DD: It is often speculated that haute couture is a dying art. What is your response to this view?
Riccardo Tisci: I think it’s become stronger because, actually, in prêt-à-porter now we understandably need to make the collection satisfy the big market more, so couture is extra special. You know, if you buy a Cartier ring you want people to know it is a Cartier ring or a diamond, or a piece of art that’s giving an emotion – then people read it and say, “wow that’s really amazing”. With prêt-à-porter you see people in the street, in a club, in a restaurant or whatever, and you think, “Oh my god, he’s wearing my trousers!” In a way it’s more open – people can put together the way they want – mixed with other designers. Couture is more your own world, they come and buy head-to-toe ­– they buy the jewellery, bags, coats, dresses, bodies underneath…. But couture is not dead ­– it’s taken another shape.

See the October issue of Dazed & Confused for the full interview with Riccardo Tisci, out September 16

All photographs from the making of the Haute Couture Book, courtesy of
All clothes Givenchy Haute Couture by Riccardo Tisci
Portrait of Riccardo Tisci by Inez & Vinoodh courtesy of Givenchy