'Clouds', 'Birds Of Paradise' and 'Angel's Tears'. Sounds like the kind of claptrap that makes you roll your eyes to high heaven and thank God that fashion weeks come but twice a year (in theory, at least). Those were the three 'abstract' themes Riccardo Tisci spliced his latest Autumn/Winter Givenchy haute couture collection into - but we can forgive Tisci the poetic-cum-pretentious titles, as this was about as haute as couture can get.
The titles were general headings to group Tisci's ten couture outfits under - and, pretentious or not, each section paid lip-service to its name. The 'Birds Of Paradise' glittered with caviar-beads, pearls and gold chain; the 'Angels Tears' were executed in feathers and weightless tulle, fastened with zippers wrought to resemble unfurled wings; and the 'Clouds' were sublime columns of tulle or lace, punched into millions of minute 'paillettes' of cloth honeycombed together into frocks that resembled nothing less than a cumulonimbus come to rest across a duchesse-satin dressmaker's dummy.
The time lavished on these garments was phenomenal - goose and ostrich feathers were curled and tonged by Lemarié, then tethered with pony-skin, while pearls embroidered by Lesage were wrapped in organza and crusted across gossamer-sweaters so fine the fabric was impossible to perceive from a few feet away. When even an evening clutch comes dripping with floor-length silk fringe and shoes are garlanded with hand-sourced antique wax flowers, it's easy to get carried away into hyperbole.
And of course, there was time to savour Tisci's work - unlike other couturiers, who whisk their months of work by in a matter of milliseconds, Tisci presents his Givenchy creations in static groups. This time, a couple of models did the rounds in feathers and white lace (dodging too close to waiters with lethal Bloody Marys for comfort), but on the whole it was Musée and musing, as we considered couture in the round and off the body.
Riccardo Tisci has hit on a clever ruse with his couture, eschewing the flashy theatrics of the show circuit and instead pumping all his (and his ateliers') talents into a dozen or so truly exceptional pieces. They're heavily weighted towards evening wear because, after all, that's what haute couture is really all about, not least when it comes to getting celebrities into these high-voltage pieces of high fashion. With Tisci's approach, the red carpet is when these garments really come to life - samples unsullied even by supermodel bodies.
This collection further underlined the silhouettes and decorative motifs Tisci has been refining for half-a-dozen seasons: long sinuous skirts, layers of transparency, something three-dimensional about the hip and those cut-up sweatshirts, for the couture cut from mousseline and dotted with pearls. If there was one criticism that could be levelled at this mind-boggling display of couture artisanship, it was that it was that it took us nowhere new. But when it looks quite so exquisite, a second look is a pleasure rather than a chore.