There was a lot riding on the Givenchy collection for me this season, mainly because the couture collection shown in January made such an impression on me, and while Riccardo Tisci didn't exactly exceed my expectations he did meet them, though not in the way I would've expected. I was hoping that the lightness and the softness of the couture collection would translate into the ready to wear, but instead we got more of Tisci's very dark, very strict and somewhat aggressive romanticism. I'm not complaining however, since it was really a collection that took many things that he has previously explored in his early days at Givenchy and removed the tortured student aspect to produce a blend of dramatic experimentation and truly gorgeous, wearable clothes.
In seeing the first images as they came out I got a sort of fallen angel vibe from what I was saw in them. White ostrich feathers decorated one look while leather sleeves or chains decorated another. But, as is always the case with the first images that get published by the news and media websites, the images weren't in the order that the looks were shown on the runway. Now after seeing them in the correct order I see that my original take was actually kind of backwards. The collection seemed more about demons becoming angels rather than the other way around. According to Tisci though, the collection actually has nothing to do with mythology or religion. He was inspired, at least in part, by Elsa Schiaparelli's work during the late 30s and early 40s. It turns out that Hubert de Givenchy worked for a short period of time as an assistant to Schiaparelli (you learn something new every day) and that Tisci saw some of her influence in the archives. Combine that with raw, animalistic sensuality and what you get was this collection. However, I kind of like my spin on things better, and that's what I'm sticking to. Really though the collection did proceed a bit like Dante's "Divine Comedy", starting where else but in Hell. Out came a parade of sinners and demons, starting with sharp pagoda shoulders and strict tailoring all in black. The first dress had those pagoda shoulders, built over a regular fitted sleeve on one side with tufts of some kind of fur sticking out from underneath, and a similar top was paired with a shiny eel leather pencil skirt. Full cut trousers had drapes and geometric pieces worked into them from the waistband. One pair was worn with a sheer top that had a sleeve covered with a combination of shaggy hair and ostrich feathers that appeared to be harnessed to the body, while another pair of trousers was paired with a simple turtleneck sweater that had leather sleeves. And there were two dresses that also used that shaggy hair and ostrich feather combination on sheer bodies that definitely had a beastly, demonic sort of vibe that I actually kind of loved.
After that there was more sharp tailoring, from pants suits and coats in a gorgeous textured black wool with leather sleeves, to simple wool crepe trousers worn with an organza and leather blouse that had a black coneshaped bra worn underneath, a one sleeved sheath worn with a fur capelet and a fitted skirt suit with an oddly draped, but very beautiful skirt worn with a huge metal chain around the waist. Here was also where Tisci started to lighten the colors, segueing from black into navy blue by way of black/navy checked wool tailoring. From there he sent out sheer blouses in plisse silk worn over those cone bras, simply draped organza tops, a coat worn with a black fur collar and another trimmed with ostrich feathers, some more of those trousers (really the best pants I've seen all season) and a fantastic pantsuit that had a double peplum effect at the waist. I'm pretty sure the pants underneath have it's own peplum as opposed to the jacket having both of them, but I'm not positive. Either way, it's great looking. Mixed into the navy stuff was a look that was one of my favorites in the lineup; a fox jacket with leather sleeves worn over a fluid black dress with a deep v-neck. There's something incredibly glamorous about it that I can't put my finger on, and why such a simple look stands out to me I don't really know, but it does. I'd love to see more of the dress underneath, because knowing Tisci it's not as simple as it appears to be.
After the navy looks things started to lighten up, literally. Ecru tailoring and ivory lace came into the picture, though, this being a Riccardo Tisci designed collection that ivory lace wasn't exactly virginal. Worn with those recurring cone bras and built out with sparkly cobalt shoulder pads, the three dresses were really the only flat looks in the collection. I just don't think they added anything, and I don't think the collection would have suffered if they had been left in the studio. As it is the angular tailored looks with vests or stoles in ostrich feathers that bookended the lace dresses were much more appealing. After that there came three looks in a sort of mint-tinged white color completely covered with silver studs. The caped jumpsuit I could live without, but the two drapey dresses were a nice contribution to the growing trend this season for completely covering a garment in hardware. It's not hard to figure out why designers are making clothes look like armor, tough clothes for tough times and all, but I'm actually really liking some of the results on a purely aesthetic level. The pieces here, as with the pieces at Cavalli in Milan, have a great movement to them due to the weight of the metal on the fabric. How wearable they all are remains to be seen. After this trio came a mish-mash of looks, which is kind of unusual for Tisci since he tends to divide his collections into sections based on color, shape or details. There was a black leather coat worn open over a cone bra and trousers, a gorgeous long sleeved black dress with a cowl draped into the front with strands of beads attatched, some white tops with strands of beads that were covered in fabric worn with black pants or a twisted shiny leather skirt and some draped sheer black looks that combined fishnet, chiffon and chains. One of them, a long dress, was strangely beautiful, though the top made in the same way and worn with draped trousers was a much more approachable option. If the black section was Hell, then middle portion of the collection was Purgatory. The sinners aren't quite purified yet, their sins still weigh on their souls and keep them from Heaven....or whatever. Then of course, after paying your dues in Purgatory there's only one place you can wind up. Pure white draped gowns, and what looks like a jumpsuit, had "wings" made from a combination of ostrich feathers and pleated fabric. My personal favorite was also the simplest; a fluid halter neck colum with some feathers sprouting around the shoulders. I'm dying to see what the back of it looks like. But apparently these angels weren't quite purged of their sins, because the last look out was anything but pure; a black top with a deep v neck and draped trousers accessorized with some kind of bolero or jacket covered with fans of white fabric in the front and more of that shaggy beast hair in the back. I guess Heaven wasn't really their thing afterall.
I have to say, I really thought the collection was great. It may even be my favorite ready to wear collection Tisci has ever done. He managed to touch upon so many of the things that are huge this season, strong shoulders, architectural cuts, sharp tailoring, armor, barbarism, texture, the 40s, extravagent fur, and make them all work together in one collection without coming off as disjointed or worse, overloaded. Most of the clothes he showed would look gorgeous on a variety of women, from the fabulous pants, to the sharp little jackets, the interesting skirts and even some of the dresses. My only complaint would be the editing. I would've liked to see the black and white looks that were interspersed before the all white eveningwear worked into the collection better instead of just jammed in between two sections of solid color. Even if the whole "angels and demons" thing is total b.s. on my part, as I suspect it is, keeping the collection broken up into sections of black, navy, beige, and white would've just made for a really nice progression. But it's a minor complaint, and really, the only looks that I truly dislike are the three lace dresses. So maybe this season isn't the season that Riccardo decided to throw a surprise our way and continue with the color, softness and lightness he touched on in his S/S couture collection, but what he offered instead is still pretty damn great.
all images from Style.com