Taking Madame Grès’s legendary draperies as a starting point, Tisci also looked to the sensual drapes of traditional Japanese kimonos, and to the swathed fabrics used in African and Indian ethnic dress.
The result was a tour de force of modern elegance that moved Riccardo’s Givenchy image forward from the power of his aggressive urban silhouette and his now relentlessly imitated prints, and into a gentler but no less alluring world—even if the girls walked in a giant circle around a set of piled-up wrecked cars (an installation that evoked the fierce and fearsome atmosphere of Alexander McQueen’s Fall 1997 “It’s a Jungle Out There” collection). “People are expecting something from me,” Riccardo said, “so it is very risky, but to be sexy you don’t have to be in high heels with a vinyl jacket—you can be in flat shoes and still be a very sexy woman.” So the only purses the girls carried were simple origami-pleated lanterns, and every look was shown with a flat Japanese slide (in tones such as poison green and rich orange) secured by a colored plastic band, and with its thick sole studded along the sides with crystals. And the clothes had a sophistication that spoke to the education Riccardo has absorbed from Givenchy’s haute couture ateliers (his couture collections are on hold at the moment), with their skilled dressmaking techniques and use of elaborate embroideries.
The show opened with long jersey dresses in tones of Buddhist monk orange, earthen and tobacco browns, and charcoal blacks that wrapped artfully around the body to reveal finely pleated bustiers often suspended from a leather samurai harness. The sophisticated elegance of Japanese style was reflected in kimono jackets worn over pants that had a languid grace. A tribal shawl in perforated leather might be frothed with a cloud of glycerined condor feathers, or a tabard dazzled with a crystal face that looked, as Riccardo said, like a Japanese computer nerd’s interpretation of a tribal mask. That idea was reflected in make-up magician Pat McGrath’s extraordinary faces on some of the girls—with hand-applied crystals glued to create a jeweled face (a process that took eight to ten hours).
The season’s sunray pleats broke forth in the poetic finale evening dresses, where a skirt of black sequins might swing in movement to reveal rainbow embroideries hidden inside the folds, or a copper, opening to reveal blood red, whilst a tuxedo had its own pleat skirts fluttering over the pants. A tuxedo jumpsuit was insouciantly tumbled off one shoulder to reveal a stripe sequin T-shirt underneath. As Riccardo promised, it was a new and subtler but no less powerful way to approach the idea of the sexy and alluring Givenchy woman.