A lot has been said and written about Riccardo Tisci’s ‘gang’; his tight, close-knit group of individuals who stand out enough alone but even more so together. You know their names. So, expectations ran high in the run up to the brand’s first New York show in celebration for the reopening of their store in the city, which has been closed for the last few years. What we got last night on Pier 26 by Manhattan’s Hudson River surely surpassed all the predictions and I imagine made them seem a little silly too. Because Tisci, with the help of his friend and frequent collaborator the artist Marina Abramovic, gave us – actually, physically made us - experience a meditation on love and loss and humanity, on this 14th anniversary of 9/11, with the two lights from the Memorial shining bright into the sky.
The set was 230 tons of recycled materials and six corrugated iron shacks, with a chorus of 800-plus extra guests from the public who won tickets standing on one side, and accented here and there with performers standing still under dripping water, slowly ascending and descending a Magritte-like ladder to nowhere, staring towards the city ahead. This was complimented by the background sound of chanting from Lama Gyurme, a Buddhist monk, that lasted well over an hour until sunset came and went, interrupted only by the flashes of arrivals. Slow down, was the message but also, here’s Kim and Kanye!
One music performance followed the next. From a Serbian song by Svetlana Spajic to another by the Syrian Nightingale Gaida to the 16th century Shalom Aleikhem (peace be upon you) accompanied by a violin - a song sung in Jewish homes on Friday evenings to usher in the Sabbath - and finally, a soprano-led Ave Maria. It was quite something. And so to the clothes, which were a celebration of Tisci’s ten years at the Parisian house that Hubert built. They included reinterpretations of acclaimed couture pieces, which came to life on some of Tisci’s most beloved models instead of the mannequins they’d usually be displayed on, their incredible otherness highlighted by Pat McGrath’s elaborate face decorations. Silk slip dresses salvaged and accentuated with strips of lace, sequins and knots of fabric gathered at shoulders and tied into a bow or long silk robes worn over trousers, all strictly in ivory or black or Wall Street pinstripe. It wasn’t new and if the clothes never quite matched the intensity of the performers or complexity of the performance act we were all part of, they were nonetheless familiar and rather reassuring in that intimacy.
Last night was a love song to New York. An ode to its smorgasbord of inhabitants being present, being here, and being part of the one gang we’re all in.