I must admit that when it was announced a couple of weeks ago that Riccardo Tisci made the decision to scale back his Haute Couture collections for Givenchy, nixing a runway presentation and cutting the total amount of looks shown to the press down to 10, I wasn't thrilled. I could see the logic in his choice, because taking a still photograph of a garment up close is the next best thing to seeing it in person (which is what press and clients would be able to do). But I tend to prefer some kind of runway like setting, whether it's a traditional up-and-down runway or something more complex in the vein of old school Galliano. It's not even that I find a static salon presentation boring, it's that it's really hard to give context to a collection when you're simply photographing it in front of a wall. With music, lighting and set design you can create some kind of ambiance that complements the clothes. It also allows a designer to bring the audience into a world of their creation, to give the audience a more multi-dimensional look at what was going through their heads when they designed the collection. I also wasn't thrilled about the fact that last season's clunky, and honestly borderline ugly collection would be the last impression of a Givenchy couture show, until further notice at least. But I'm enough of a Tisci fan to have faith that he would deliver something special now that the focus would be entirely on an extremely limited number of clothes. On that count I don't think I was wrong.
Anyone who has been following Tisci's career at Givenchy can view the 10 looks he presented and see things that are similar to work he's already done. For the first time though I don't see that as a negative thing. My rule for designers is that if they're going to revisit something they've already done or rework a piece from their past they had better improve upon the original. In my opinion it's rare that that actually happens. I can't speak for everyone, much as I might like to, but I think that this time around Tisci actually did manage to take those old ideas and make them better. Each one of his ten looks had something familiar about them, from religious motifs to heavy beadwork, geometric cuts to intricate embroideries and appliques. But even at their most baroque, as in a narrow column dress completely encrusted in gold sequins and beads, the clothes didn't seem as labored as they sometimes have in the past. They were detailed to nth degree, no doubt about it, but I really don't think any of the clothes felt overwrought. Tisci's use of his inspiration felt completely under control as well. Even something like lace applique in the form of the human skeleton doesn't seem as gimmicky as it could have been. In fact, I think there's something really beautiful in that blend of purity and darkness, beauty and physical decay. You could also make the connection between the reminders of mortality as seen in the porcelain skulls that apparently adorn some of the white jackets and the seemingly imminent death of Haute Couture.
So yeah, I'm not entirely in love with this scaling back thing. At the very least I would have like to see a larger collection. But then I stop and think to myself that if scaling back was what it took for Tisci to make clothes that are this beautiful and this focused, then I really shouldn't have anything to be upset about, should I? If it wasn't for how small the collection was, I might go so far as to call this Tisci's best couture collection yet.
Unfortunately there's some copyright issue going on with the images Conde Nast is using at the moment, so you'll have to go to Style.com yourself to check out better quality images and rear views of each look. I'd recommend viewing them in full screen mode.
all images from WWD.com