Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Close To Perfection IV: Givenchy Haute Couture - Spring/Summer 2012

Riccardo Tisci
Image courtesy of:

When I arrived a few years ago, there was the legacy of Givenchy himself—a genius—I had to close the doors in order to appropriate the company, get comfortable with my position...”

Since his official appointment as creative director of the storied House of Givenchy on February 28th, 2005—and his Fall-Winter Haute Couture debut presentation in the house’s Avenue George V headquarters in July of that year—Riccardo Tisci has not only brought dynamism and romance to the brand but modernity and innovation—a re-invented concept of what the hallowed craft of couture in the twenty-first century is capable of. As with any young designer brought in to reinvigorate a staid but venerable design establishment with a long history and bearing the indisputable signature of its founding creative director and name-sake, Mr. Tisci struggled to imprint the House of Givenchy with his own stamp. (It is a dilemma faced by every designer entrusted with the task of breathing new life into a well-known and eminent House: how to infuse his own identity and design aesthetic with that of his [founding] predecessor's; how to make it marketable enough to attract a new, younger clientele base while generating not only much-needed sales but to make it a viable brand once more; how to overcome an atelier's reticence about departing from its accustomed long-standing, conventional methods of doing things and embarking on, and readjusting to, new ones; how to marry tradition with novelty and progress—these are only some of the challenges faced by every new designer.) Mr. Tisci hinted as much in a very recent interview with Vogue's Hamish Bowles about his latest couture collection, which the designer described as his “very sparkle collection”: “for seven years I urged the ateliers to be experimental.” For the Spring/Summer 2012 Haute Couture collection, however, he wanted the Givenchy ateliers to explore the possibilities of more conventional haute couture embellishments. (Quotes: Bowles, H.,, January 2012)

It is precisely that combination of forward-looking innovation along with a simultaneous nod to tradition that has set Mr. Tisci's collections for Givenchy apart from other Houses; it is also what keeps the House of Givenchy, which is owned by the luxury brand conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), relevant where other brands may be floundering. (Riccardo Tisci is the last in a series of young British designers appointed to the helm after the House's founder, Hubert de Givenchy, retired in 1995: John Galliano in January 1996, followed shortly thereafter by Alexander McQueen in October of 1996; Julien MacDonald was designated in March of 2001. As with two of his predecessors, Mr. Tisci, who was born in the Italian city of Taranto, is also a [1999] graduate of Central Saint Martins in London.)
(Sources:, undated;, 2012)

The above two images are courtesy of:

Image courtesy of:

Great fashion, like great art, architecture, and design of all forms, is based on harmony and balance, composition, and linear rhythm; it elicits an emotional response in its viewer—emotional response being one of the strongest forces there is. During his tenure at Givenchy, coming close to seven years now, Riccardo Tisci's collections for the label have shown a growing sense of sophistication and strength not only in the Haute Couture collections but also in the Prèt-a-Porter lines as well—their emotional intensity has also increased, becoming more refined, particularly in the intimate haute couture  presentations.

Through the years, Riccardo Tisci seems to have found his stride: “To me, the mark of a successful designer is having an identity,” he has been quoted as saying. (Mr. Tisci's couture collections have been honed over the years, becoming, particularly in the last few seasons, concentrated—to the point of distillation—in no more than ten perfect, and perfectly executed, pieces in each collection; his identity—and identifiable aesthetic—clearly distinct and imprinted upon each piece.) His latest presentation, shown on January the 24th and set to the music of Yakov Protazanov’s 1924 proto sci-fi classic Aelita: Queen of Mars, took its inspirational cue specifically from Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece, Metropolis, and from the streamlined Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s—in general—as is evident in the embellishment designs. (Quote & source: Phelps, N., January 24, 2012)

Crocodile jackets in detail
Above left, (See Look No. 2) | Above right, (See Look No. 3)
Above left image,  courtesy of: | Above right image, courtesy of: Riccardo Tisci

The collection was presented in three rooms: the first of which was the 'Crocodile Room,' devoted to crocodile skins, in what Nicole Phelps of could only describe, “...what the Givenchy atelier has done to the precious skin is positively jaw-dropping.” And, once the process is fully described, it is not difficult to understand the reason behind Ms. Phelps's remark—crocodile skin (one of the most difficult and unyielding materials to work with) was cut, scale by scale, bleached, dyed, then carefully numbered, and finally reassembled—one individual scale at a time—into correct formation and embroidered with metal studs onto a fine nude silk tulle body-stocking to create an ensemble that required a laborious three-hundred-and-fifty hours of hand-work to create (see Look 1 below). Other ensembles featured swallow-tailed jackets embellished with three-dimensional Soviet stars (the same star motif that Mr. Tisci used in his menswear show) and quilted sleeves. (See Looks 2 & 3 below and the photo above.) (Quote & sources: Phelps, N., January 24, 2012; Bowles, H.,, January 2012)

The second room was the 'Crystal Room': silk satin halter gowns and blouses were held together by rings at the neck and bejeweled with sparkling crystals and opaque beads, the hems of which were edged with rhinestone raindrops. (See Looks 4, 5, 6, & 9 below.) Even some of the gowns' linings were not spared the couturier's touch of haute luxe—the linings of some ensembles were embroidered with transparent paillettes and gold micro-studs (see Looks 4 & 8).

The third and final room was the 'Black & White Room': here, beaded sheer blouses and gowns were effortlessly worn with casual black and white silk jersey tank tops piped in nappa, one of which, the final ensemble, was also embroidered and beaded (Look 10). (Nappa refers to leather that is derived from either sheep, lamb or goat-kid. It is not, as some are misled to believe, cowhide. As such, nappa leather tends to be softer and more pliable than many cowhides). Nor was the collection confined to couture hallmarks such as (jet) crystals and bugle-beads, micro-studs and paillettes—Mr. Tisci gave his collection a hard edge with the usage of industrial zippers that snaked seductively and asymmetrically up one black silk cady skirt (Look 8) and off of the shoulder of one sheer black silk organza top (Look 10). One skirt, made of white chiffon embroidered with scales of transparent micro-paillettes and crystal fringes was suspended by a heavy metal chain across one shoulder (Look 7). (Sources: Phelps, N., January 24, 2012; Bowles, H.,, January 2012)

Riccardo Tisci's 'sparkly' Givenchy collection is at once fragile and tough. The secret to Haute Couture's survival into the twenty-first century (and beyond) lies in finding such a balance between two polar opposite—the union of subtle, refined age-old couture techniques with an advanced, progressive visionary design talent. It is an intelligent collection, designed by one of the most talented  and accomplished designers working today; it is a collection that is obviously aimed towards a discriminating, sophisticated client, one who is able to discern and appreciate its nuances. In the closing words of Hamish Bowles, “Tisci’s thoroughly modern collection makes couture an exciting proposition for the thoroughly modern woman.” (Quote: Bowles, H.,, January 2012)

Look No. 1: Nude silk-tulle gown embroidered with matte brown crocodile scales
and adorned with metal studs. Two intertwined crocodile skins form the bodice belt.

Look No. 2: Silk crêpe-de-Chine gown embroidered with matte brown beads and worn
with a silk jersey tank top trimmed with nappa (leather) and a silk organza jacket.
The jacket is embroidered with matching matte brown beads and shiny black crocodile,
with studs inserted underneath the crocodile scales. Floral elements cut in crocodile are
fixed with metal rings passed through tiny eyelets

Look No. 3: Full-length beaded silk crêpe-de-Chine gown of shiny black beads
and worn with a silk jersey tank top trimmed with nappa (leather) and a silk organza
jacket. Like the gown, the jacket is also embroidered with shiny black beads. It is also
worked with matte brown crocodile and features sleeves of quilted crocodile skin.
The back is embellished with three-dimensional crocodile elements in the shape of wings. 

Look No. 4: Beige silk chiffon halter gown embroidered with encaged smokey
quartz crystals and bronze-coloured beads. The gown is lined with silk
crêpe-marocain embroidered with gold micro-studs.

Look No. 5: White washed silk satin halter gown held at the neck with a silver ring
and draped open sleeves, gathered low at the back to form a ruffle. The gown
is embellished all over with small, white opaque crystals with larger crystals
forming a cross on the front of the gown.

Look No. 6: White washed silk satin halter blouse held at the neck with a silver ring
and draped open sleeves. The blouse, embroidered with crystals and flowers made of
micro-paillettes and white opaque crystals, is worn with full black wool beaded trousers
embellished with three-dimensional flower elements made of caged jet crystals and studs.

Look No. 7: White chiffon skirt, suspended by a metal chain, is embroidered
with scales of transparent micro-paillettes and crystal fringes. A white jersey tank
top edged with nappa and a pair of white elbow-length leather gloves complete the look.

Look No. 8: A white silk organza blouse embroidered with paillettes and crystals
which form a three-dimensional floral motif at the low waistline. The edges of the blouse
neckline and sleeve cuffs are ornamented with triangular crystal studs and caged crystals;
the blouse is worn with a nappa-trimmed silk jersey tank top underneath. A black bias-cut
and seamed silk cady skirt, featuring a long metal zipper and lined in organza embroidered with transparent paillettes (along with elbow-length black leather gloves), completes the ensemble.

Look No. 9: Long white silk organza gown embroidered with crystals. Transparent
and silver paillettes create an asymmetrical three-dimensional floral motif along the
waistline. Triangular crystal studs and caged crystals follow the neckline and sleeve
cuff edges. The sheer gown is worn with a nappa-trimmed silk jersey tank top underneath.

Look No. 10: Long black gown with a silk crêpe-de-Chine skirt embroidered all
over with micro-paillettes and floral elements of encaged jet crystals and micro-studs.
A silk organza top featuring an asymmetrical metal zipper embellished with triangular
crystals worn with a black silk jersey tank top, also embroidered with jet crystals and
micro-studs to form the same floral elements as the gown.
(Worn with elbow-length black leather gloves.)


The above twenty-two images are courtesy of: Fashion Gone Rogue
(Details & descriptions cited from:

(N.B.: It must be noted that, as a confirmed animal lover and animal welfare supporter, Ŧhe ₵oincidental Ðandy does not, in any way, shape or form, condone or endorse the use of animal skins and/or furs—especially the exotic kind. The inclusion of sartorial images in this posting or anywhere else on this site, for that matter, is strictly based on merit of design and in appreciation—and admiration—for the skills and craftsmanship necessary to create masterpieces of haute couture; it is as much an homage to the countless artisans who patiently toil endless hours in Parisian ateliers in a dauntless effort to meticulously realize a designer's vision as it is to the designers themselves.)

Video by afp-fashion & courtesy of:

In spite of the fact that everyone thinks I am very much a rottweiler—that I am very dark and everything—I have a side that is very romantic that I show to very few people.” ~ Riccardo Tisci
Riccardo Tisci & Mariacarla Boscono
(Elle US ~ February 2012 | Photo by Karim Sadli)
Image courtesy of: Givenchy

Suggested readings:

The History of Haute Couture: 1850-1950 (1980), by Diana De Marly: Holmes and Meier

Haute Couture Embroidery: The Art of Lesage (1988), by Palmer White: Vendome Press

Haute Couture (1995), by Richard Harrison Martin, Harold Koda & Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.): Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Art of Haute Couture (1995), by Victor Skrebneski & Laura Jacobs: Abbeville Press

Lesage (2000), by Lydia Kamitsis: Universe

The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-57 (2007), by Claire Wilcox: V&A Publications

Producing Fashion: Commerce, Culture, and Consumers (2008), by Regina Lee Blaszczyk: University of Pennsylvania Press

Fashioning Society: A Hundred Years of Haute Couture by Six Designers (2009), by Karl Aspelund: Fairchild Books


  1. just strong and beautiful. I love that the collection seems to be armor inspired.

  2. Dear Ms. EleoNora:

    Yes - I quite agree, it is a sublime collection. But then, Mr. Tisci's collections usually are; he's a master couturier in my opinion; one of only a few. I particularly love the fact that he limits his collections to ten, perfect pieces each.

    I'd prefer to see ten well thought out perfect creations rather than sixty generic ones - ten is all you need, really. Mr. Tisci proves that each season.

    Thanks for your comment ~ ₵. Ð.