Some would say it’s a tough time to do a collection that celebrates America. As Riccardo Tisci unveiled his ode to the USA, in the imposing setting of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Donald Trump was being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. The consistent thread running through Tisci’s work is love and acceptance - along with Olivier Rousteing of Balmain and Shaun Oliver of Hood by Air, he’s done more for diversity on the runways than basically the rest of the designers on the whole of the Paris Fashion Week schedule put together. But then, America has been a constant thread too - think of the reds and blues, the stars and stripes. Why should Tisci abandon his aesthetic obsession just because of Donald? You could read this collection as being about pride - about showing an alternative way. Taranta-born Tisci has helped redefine understandings of Italian fashion - he showed there is another side to the country’s aesthetics than the sexy and voluptuous that has became the norm in fashion. His version was something darker, something more gritty. Maybe he’s also looking to show another version of America - one that’s forward-thinking and joyful rather than conservative and stiff. He certainly sought to celebrate, from spotlighting preppy boys to Victorian women in those epic couture gowns which closed the collection.
For A/W 17, Tisci complimented the classics - the stripes, the stars, the totem poles - with some new twists. Say the name Givenchy and one thinks immediately of the sweatshirt, not the shirt. But it was the traditional button-down, collared menswear staple that had got Tisci excited for A/W 17. This collection seemed to be musing on the potentials of the plaid or striped shirt - I found these experiments exciting. Some featured strange double ties, others morphed from shirt and tie to blouson, others toyed with formality via ruffles that suggested tuxedo shirts.
This was a view of America through naive eyes - Tisci spoke of looking at the America of his childhood. It’s telling that just a few hours before his show, Rei Kawakubo also looked to boyhood in her collection for Comme des Garcons. You could call this designers burying their heads in the sand - regressing to silliness and lightness when times get too tough. I call it another version of fighting hate with love - with purity, happiness, ease. It’s hard for a mega brand like Givenchy to be political in tough times like this without offending or seemingly appropriating issues far removed from high fashion. This struck the perfect tone - frivolous enough to lift our spirits, pointed enough to feel relevant. It was a dignified collection, shown during a difficult slot for fashion and the world - to borrow that much-quoted Michelle Obama line, ‘When they go low, we go high.’