Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Under the sheltering tent...


It's been interesting, over the last month or so, to see the way that the three Givenchy collections presented in the same time frame have related to each other. It started with the Resort 2010 collection, continued with the Mens show for S/S 2010 two weeks ago, and culminated with the F/W 2009 couture collection shown yesterday. All of these collections, which are worked on simultaneously at some point or another, have been influenced in part by North Africa, though in Tisci's hands you can bet that you won't get something all that literal. After seeing the resort collection in June, and then the mens show later in the month, I felt pretty confident that the couture collection would be in a similar vein. It wouldn't be the first time that Tisci's resort collection has been an indicator of the couture show that's shown after it, but even still, knowing the vague direction that this couture show would go in I didn't know what to expect, and in a way that's become one of my favorite things about Riccardo Tisci. He keeps your attention.

The show opened with a double breasted black velvet coat that had an exaggerated hourglass silhouette and a sheer hood, and right away I loved the look. It reminds me a lot of a coat Nicolas Ghesquiere did in his F/W 2001 Balenciaga collection, same wasp waist and all. That's not a put down though, and the silhouette feels somehow fresh for Riccardo. Then came a second coat in strips of exotic leather with a similarly curvy shape, followed by a velvet jacket with built out hips worn with matching trousers. These few looks, though easily the most simple in the collection, were also some of the ones that excited me the most. Don't ask me why, I couldn't tell you. Then comes look four and you're pretty much whacked over the head by the impact; a black hooded cowl top with full, draped zouave trousers accented with huge golden bibs, facemask and bangles, a look clearly inspired by traditional womens fashions in Muslim and Islamic cultures. After this look there was a black velvet jacket worn with ballooning trousers embroidered with gold beadwork in a vaguely Moorish/Moroccan pattern. I honestly hate the silhouette, but the beadwork on the pants is absolutely gorgeous. There was a flowing black draped chiffon mermaid gown, worn with that same heavy gold jewelry which was followed by my favorite look in the collection; a black turtleneck top paired with a high-waisted black mermaid skirt covered in sequins that had sculptural detailing at the waist. There were jet beaded zouave pants (which looked just as unfortunate as the ones Balmain showed for fall), and a stunning high-necked long-sleeved jet beaded gown with spikes protruding around the chest and shoulders.

If you view the collection in order, look 10 comes as quite a shock after the black looks that opened the show. A pale beige gown with strong shoulders and a plunging neckline was decorated with inexplicable hot pink beading around the shoulders and below the waist. This dress was followed by another with cutout sides and a keyhole neckline, this time embellished with bright green jewels at the hip and scattered down the skirt. Both of the dresses were really quite pretty on their own, and the fabric had some kind of subtle design woven into it, but those garish, cheap looking embellishments made me cringe. In all fairness the green version is slightly more appealing than the hot pink one, but still, it's like taking a beautiful painting and putting it in an ugly frame; the accent ends up taking away from the beauty of the artwork. Then came an ecru jacket cut with asymmetrical flyaway panels at the hem in signature Tisci style worn with tapered trousers. The jacket was embellished with red beadwork in a tribal kind of pattern that was pretty, but having seen an HQ image I have to say I would rather that the detail had been embroidered in thread rather than the chunky plastic beading. It would have been more refined looking. Following this was a strapless gown in degrade silk that went from ecru to intense red at the hem. Compared to the garish neon beading, this use of color actually made sense in the context of the collection. Another look had a top in white with an asymmetrical train draped off the side and back that had illusion sleeves embroidered with more of that red tribal bead-work. Again, I wish the beading had been done more subtly. Even changing the beads to smaller shapes would have helped. I'm just not digging the chunkiness of it. Billowing white veils covered two strapless, embellished bustier looks, one with pants, the other with a sheer skirt in chiffon that I can't wait to see in motion once the videos start popping up. A white sheared fur jacket was embellished with gold studs and chains, and here I thought the chunkiness of the embellishment worked. A strapless white dress was also embellished with gold studs and had an underskirt in black peeking out. And the final dress, strapless, white with embroidered patterns on the fabric and an angular infrastructure giving the silhouette a jagged sort of shape, was kind of dull compared to everything before it. It definitely wasn't a "finale" look, that's for sure.

First for the positive; I love pretty much all of the black looks that comprised the first half of the show. They were beautifully understated and kind of fresh for Tisci. I also love the inspiration behind the collection, and in Tisci's hands it yielded some interesting and beautiful results. The mystery, drama and sensuality of North Africa combined with the incongruent elements like spikes, studs and corsetry worked surprisingly well, and it's nice to see him playing with ideas he's toyed with less successfully in the past (hardware and fragility being one of them). Now for the negative. First, there were just too few looks. Givenchy has majorly skilled workrooms and plenty of people working in them, so there's really no reason why the collection should only contain 21 looks. I'm not asking for some lengthy 40-plus look parade, but 21 is cutting it way short as far as I'm concerned. Besides that, the less looks you have, the less room you have to really say what you're trying to in a coherent way. That was another negative, the coherency was definitely lacking here which is unusual for a Givenchy couture collection. Even when he throws different looks and different ideas out there in one collection there is almost always a good progression, and everything makes sense. But that wasn't the case here. It was too scattered. What did those two neon embellished gowns have to do with anything else he showed? Why was that corseted tailoring that opened the collection dropped after the first few looks instead of expanded upon? I awaited this collection with the standard he set last season weighing heavily on my expectations and unfortunately it didn't quite live up to them, which is disappointing. Also disappointing, but maybe not really worth complaining about, is the fact that a lot of this collection is familiar coming from Tisci. Yeah, the look and details aren't the same, but unlike last season this is all stuff we've seen him do before, and my policy on that is if you don't improve upon something then you shouldn't bother revisiting it.

all images from

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