Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Close To Perfection III: Givenchy Haute Couture - Autumn/Winter 2011-2012

Riccardo Tisci

Couture is about emotion...

The intolerable heat and humidity of July is indicative of one thing: Couture Week in Paris is at hand. But this was not the usual Couture Week of seasons past. For the first time since his debut collection back in January 1997, the absence of John Galliano's presence from Dior's Autumn/Winter 2011 presentation was starkly evident. Following the debacle of Mr. Galliano's scandal earlier this year in February (24th), when a heated incident ensued whereby Mr. Galliano became embroiled in a 45-minute, racially-motivated and alcohol-fueled verbal altercation with a young couple near his table at La Perle, a fashionable Marais-district bar, the top brass at Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton [LVMH], owners of a variety of luxury brands, including Christian Dior and John Galliano's namesake label among them, first decided to indefinitely suspend the designer until further notice and then, a few days later, to terminate Mr. Galliano's contract altogether and he was unceremoniously dismissed from his position as creative director of the House of Dior. (On February 28th, a few days after the incident that resulted in Mr. Galliano's arrest and suspension from Dior, a 45-second video surfaced on the Internet of an earlier, similarly anti-Semitic incident that occurred in October of 2010 at the same location, La Perle. The existence of the video, in which a seemingly inebriated Galliano is seen praising Hitler and hurling insults into the camera, was the catalyst responsible for the unequivocal termination of Mr. Galliano's contract with Dior. In court at his trial, held on June 22nd, Mr. Galliano stated that he had no recollection of what transpired. If convicted, Mr. Galliano may quite possibly face a prison sentence of six months and a fine of 22,500 euros [£20,000].) (Source: nytimes.com, 2011)

Immediately after Dior officially announced Mr. Galliano's dismissal on March 1st (and for weeks and months afterwards), rumours began to swirl as to who would replace John Galliano at Dior. As it turned out, Mr. Galliano was replaced by a designer from Dior's own studios: Bill Gaytten. (Mr. Gaytten had worked for years as an assistant and collaborator by Mr. Galliano's side. At best, the collection received lukewarm reviews - a very far cry indeed from Galliano's own triumphant, epic debut in January 1997, which set the tone for the next fourteen years of his tenure and inaugurated a fresh, extravagant new chapter in the historic saga of Dior.) But before Gaytten's debut at Dior dispelled the suspense, a few prominent names were brandished about as possible Galliano replacements; among them, that of 36-year old  Givenchy designer, Riccardo Tisci. (Source: nytimes.com, 2011)

In a sense, it was probably a good decision not to replace Mr. Galliano with Mr. Tisci: the monumental presence (name and image) of Mr. Galliano has been so inextricably identified with that of Dior, his hand had so distinctly shaped the history of the House for the past fifteen years since being appointed its creative director in 1996 - ironically, after a brief stint at the House of Givenchy - that the void created by his vacancy will undoubtedly be an enormous and daunting challenge for anyone with a less-than-sure hand and a prodigiously creative vision, to overcome and fill. Irrespective of Mr. Galliano's future in the fashion industry, one thing is for certain: the cast of his shadow at Dior is far-reaching and will be felt long afterwards; future comparisons are inevitable and will be impossible to avoid. 

Video courtesy of: Style.com

But perhaps the biography of Mr. Galliano, with the spectacular pinnacles and pitfalls of his career, had best be left for future historians to chronicle. Scandals and controversies not withstanding, after all is said and done, Paris is essentially about the age-old craft of haute couture - if nothing else. Couture itself has had a checkered history and its many demises - as well as its revivals - have been repeatedly predicted by designers and critics alike. But perhaps couture's future survival relies on young talent. In the hands of young designers (and, more literally, in the hands of new generations of skilled craftsmen and craftswomen necessary to  realize a designer's vision and translate hypothetical ideas and dreams into realities), couture's future pertinently rests. Of the new generation of couturiers, Riccardo Tisci stands as a beacon of hope for the future of Paris fashion. As with previous Givenchy couture collections, for his Autumn/Winter 2011 collection, Mr. Tisci's undoubted talent and comprehension of the art of French couture was once more patently evident in a minute collection of ten pieces - each piece exquisitely and painstakingly hand-wrought. Also as in previous collections, Mr. Tisci eschewed a runway presentation and had it photographed on ten models; later, the collection was appropriately installed as an art installation in the Place Vendôme. (“At these presentations,” reporter Nicole Phelps writes from Paris for style.com, the sartorial website, “every detail, however small, warrants his attention. On the one hand, a fragrance diffuser misted the scent of spring roses through the rooms; and on the other, Popol Vuh, circa Werner Herzog's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, played on the speakers.”) The art of haute couture is in the craftsmanship of details - it is a craft in which Mr. Tisci and the Givenchy ateliers excel. (Quote: Phelps, N., style.com, July 5, 2011)

(Photographs by Chris Moore/Karl Prouse)
The three images above are courtesy of: http://www.nytimes.com

If couture is in the details, then the House of Givenchy, under the guidance of Mr. Tisci, is possibly its most expert proponent. In summing up the inspiration for his latest Givenchy collection, Mr. Tisci cited three words: purity, lightness, fragility. “I try to find the light in the darkness,” he was quoted as saying. “Very pure and soft and fragile; a romantic dream.” The collection, done mainly in a palette of white, ivory and the palest shades of beige is a direct reference to the first moments in the creative process when ideas tentatively form into tangible realities - the toiles or first samples. For the designer, these first calicos are “the most beautiful moment in couture” adding, “white has become very strong—when women want to be sexy and romantic at the same time, white is there.” The magic of couture was also all there: curled duck feathers framed the neck of one dress and sported an ostrich feather peplum (plumes were so densely embroidered that they appeared to be fur and not feathers) and Tisci's beloved signature dégradé technique - this time, it employed beading which was so expertly applied that not only did the beads change colour with the light, but also changed from shiny to matte. There were other details in a collection that consumed six months to bring to fruition. One tulle dress, for instance, was decorated with tiger's-eye pearls, with crystals embedded into each pearl to fleetingly catch the light, and arranged in the exact same pattern to mimic the nodules typically found on ostrich skins; another gown was even more painstakingly embroidered with tiny silvery-gray caviar beads.

Nor were the accessories spared the same intense, laborious detailing: the ankle straps of one pair of shoes were fashioned from the pale wax flowers garlanding nineteenth-century devotional pictures that Mr. Tisci sourced from antique examples. And, while Tisci's beloved fringe fell in a golden cascade of fine chains from one gold-embroidered tank dress - each chain reportedly less than a millimeter wide - the clutch purses created to correspond with the gowns (one in gold, another in white) were also fringed to the floor. (Quotes & source: vogue.com, July 2011)

Riccardo Tisci & Mariacarla Boscono
(The White Fairy Tale Love Ball ~ Paris, July 6, 2011)

But the most time-consuming and costly dress created for this collection was one that was entirely sewn of symmetrically placed, hand-cut silk tulle paillettes whose high-collared neck and elaborate detailing called to mind the demure propriety of the Edwardian era, until its cutaway back and chunky plastic zipper revealed it to be part of the twenty-first-century proposition which is Mr. Tisci’s hallmark approach to contemporary couture - the marriage between steeped tradition with forward-looking modernism. The finished result resembled what can only be described as fish scales - albeit, the scales of a very expensive and exotic fish. (Source: Phelps, N., style.com, July 5, 2011)

As Suzy Menkes, the venerable fashion journalist for the International Herald Tribune and special fashion reporter for The New York Times, has written of Tisci's latest effort, Mr. Tisci... has taken the concept of couture back to the days of the private customer, with each dress to be made to order.... the main thread of his collection is the link to those few, rare customers who are searching for the exceptional. And that suddenly seems like 21st century haute couture.” An exceptional collection it is. (Quote: Menkes, S., Givenchy: Pure Is Beautiful, nytimes.com, July 5, 2011)       

The above twenty-two images are courtesy of Givenchy: http://www.style.com

Video courtesy of:  ~ YouTube

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