NYFW: Givenchy's First New York Runway Show Was a Tribute to 9/11


Givenchy’s first-ever show during New York Fashion Week was meant to mark its new Manhattan flagship store, and in the spirit of giving they raffled off tickets on their website to commoners with trigger internet-fingers. But the scene was anything but normal: with an hourlong performance art intro directed by Marina Abramovic, and including a couple locked in a tense embrace with One World Trade Center looming in the background as a Buddhist monk sang a mantra, it was a tribute to 9/11, a day when, 14 years ago, many editors were sitting in Bryant Park for fashion week, waiting for an Oscar de la Renta show to begin.

It was a glittering, beautiful scene—lower Manhattan is, on normal days—and the soundtrack, provided live and running the gamut between what seemed to be religious songs in languages like Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, and Latin (“Ave Maria” closed it out), was appropriately somber, with a winding runway crafted from recycled materials, though if this was a message of unity it was a slight bit too reducto and self-conscious. (To its credit, though, it avoided being sanctimonious, something we can’t say for a large majority of the internet and, really, the country. And hey, at least they “ameliorated some of the ickiness”!) The theme was, generally, America. Marina Abramovic will never forget.

While this was very mindfully reverent from a French design house’s first-ever show in New York, the tone didn’t quite fit the theme of the line: those recycled materials and big wooden palette stairs models had to climb over—some more successfully than others; I saw at least two of them biff which, if women who actually get paid to walk in heels can’t, doesn’t bode well for the rest of us—recalled the American bootlegging era, as did the many slinky slipdresses, spectator-inspired pumps, and sleek black suits for men, all Nucky Thompson in a drawing room.

Designer Riccardo Tisci’s obsession with facial adornment continues; this time, model’s faces were covered by rhinestones and lace, in contrast to Fall’s heavy piercing armor. While the more formal gowns were fucking exquisite—in particular, his lacework is always impeccable, and an inky black evening gown with a sheer skirt exposing patent leather leggings underneath, as well as a white fringed torch singer sheath, were the kinds of things he can do at the absolute top of his craft.

But halfway through, as my viewing companion put it: “This is fucking colonialism!” And he meant it literally: Tisci’s Eastern influences, dipping in Persian elements with a hint of fancy alien—and, perhaps, an interpretation of Buddha—were followed by suits with shortpants, one “tally ho” away from breaking out a musket and a monocle. It’s the one flaw that Tisci’s had of late—recall the disaster of calling his Fall 2015 show “Chola Victorian,” a hot mess of oblivion from a preternaturally talented man who really should know better. But maybe this is a side effect of the designer fatigue they warn us about—the problem with capitalism requiring large-scale designers to come up with not just fall and spring lines but also new ideas for resort, pre-fall, couture, BBQ season, your momma’s house, your momma’s stockist, your momma’s major department store buyer, and so on. But, fuck, man, if colonialism isn’t American as apple pie, then what else is it?

In short: Givenchy remains beautiful, opulent, delicate, covetable, the one-percent (hey, you could see Wall Street from the Pier, too!). The audience included Kim and Kanye, Nicki Minaj and Ciara, Hailee Steinfeld, Julia Roberts. Riccardo Tisci remains one of the best in the game, from an ideas standpoint and as a craftsman as well, but even geniuses need to get checked now and again. 7.5/10

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Images via Getty, screenshot; video via Givenchy.

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