For Autumn.Winter 2010, there has been an overpowering sense of deja vu, not only in Paris but throughout the fashion month. Brands have retreated to their archives, rehashed their greatest hits, and frankly done nothing to surprise or entice. Riccardo Tisci's latest show for Givenchy, however, was a notable exception: his collection is the best of his career, with all the energy, excitement and bravery that label engenders.
Building on wardrobe basics he has steadfastly established as Givenchy classics - sleek tailoring, frilly blouses and a way with a short evening dress - was clever and commercially cunning, but what made this collection exceptional was Tisci pushing his aesthetic further than he has before. Certainly, many of the ideas have been raised in his collections before - the pattern, the intense decoration, riffing between feminine lace and masculine suiting - but never with such confidence or clarity of vision.
Givenchy's knitwear was stunning - intricately jacquarded into patterns building on his prints from spring, simultaneously reminiscent of Islamic art, bobbin lace and eighteenth century architecture, they twisted intricately around the body in bands of black, red, pistachio, blue, sliced open, peeled back, laced and corseted together. They were outstanding. So too was his embellishment: dripping beads and crystal over gloves, occasionally smothering dresses, ruffles puckering bodices, lace peeking through dresses. This could easily turn into a litany of his decorative effects - but for all their baroque multitude, they never overpowered. At the same time, neoprene fold-waist skirts felt undeniably modern - likewise turret-backed jackets dropping to a squared-off tail, Tisci's tailoring take on the taste for undulating hemlines.
That's the physical. Now for the ephemeral - and uncoiling the reference points could take days. The aforementioned echoes of the eighteenth century felt appropriate, as there was something of a frock-coat swagger to Tisci's silhouettes, and touches of 1789 macabre - ribbons knotted behind the neck a la guillotine, deathly red light bathing half of his audience. The red light, perhaps, symbolised sexual fetishism - an undercurrent of many a Paris show, there was a feel of trussed-up kink to some of Tisci's garments, banded in an S&M palette of blood-red and black. But that sexual frisson was latently throbbing rather than explicitly vulgar, a touch of Yves Saint Laurent's ÃƒÂ©pater (rather than pander) le bourgeoise in transparent blouses scrolled with lacework. That's a heavy mantle for one as young as Tisci to wear, but this collection - uncompromising, affecting, refined, defined and absolutely flawless - was more than strong enough to bear the weight.