Image: Danko Steiner
For the first time in its 63-year-history, the iconic French fashion brand Givenchy has left its home in Paris to stage a spectacular runway show at New York Fashion Week.
With CNN Style exclusive access, the artistic director of Givenchy Riccardo Tisci has revealed why he’s taking the Givenchy show to New York for the first time ever; how he brought couture to the street; the sources of his inspiration; his love of art – and his love affair with New York.
ON CHOOSING TO STAGE THE GIVENCHY SHOW IN NEW YORK AND NOT PARIS THIS SEASON:
America was the first country to really believe in me. The big success of Givenchy started first in America and it then became a European success. And strange enough, it’s a coincidence that even for [founder] Hubert de Givenchy, the big step for Givenchy in the ’50s was America.
ON GIVENCHY AND STREET STYLE:
Givenchy is obviously a couture house. I’ve brought the couture to the street and street style I’ve made more couture. That’s what made me different. I was one of the first ones to bring back the sweatshirts, the trainers and make them more Givenchy, more luxury. I’m the first one to make really high couture and bring it down to the street, more relaxed, more deconstructed.
ON HOW HE PERCEIVED AMERICA WHEN HE WAS GROWING UP IN SOUTHERN ITALY:
For me, [these were] the two big things: freedom of expression and the fact that I could come here and change my life and express myself … In Italy you have so many cases of people from nothing who have come to America and become big things — Sophia Loren, Frederico Fellini. People find a way to express themselves in America. So that was my American Dream.
ON HOW HIS LOVE FOR BASKETBALL INSPIRED HIS AMERICAN DREAM:
The importance of basketball in my life is quite strong. At school I started playing…and I discovered this world. It became my obsession. Since a young age I have been thinking ‘ok one day I would love to show in New York’. My American dream….since I was a child to do a fashion show in the street…because I come from the street. So for New York I decided to open it…it’s going to be in the street, people can see it. Journalists and buyers support you and build your success but the real success is in the street. And it’s the real people that buy and understand what you are trying to say. I feel at home on the street. Street is where everything is going to and has to come from. That for me is the most important thing.
ON IMAGES AND SYMBOLS WHICH INFLUENCED HIS WORK:
I’ve used Bambi. I’ve used the American flag, a lot of elements that have been related to American culture …It’s fun because anyone would like an animal from Walt Disney, anyone would like the American flag. I’m obsessed with the symbology of America: McDonald’s, Marlboro, Coca-Cola, and Nike. This big colossus that they’ve made. They are so strong for culture in the world. They’ve changed the culture.
ON WHAT MAKES STREET STYLE AND CULTURE SO IMPORTANT:
Street, for me, is so important because I came from the street. And how much I can fly, and have an exclusive life, at the end of the day I need to go back to the street. I feel at home on the street. It all starts from there. The most beautiful expression is the street. The energy of people, the way they dress. The wholeness they have in the way they approach life.
ON THE SIGNIFICANCE OF COMING FROM POVERTY AND HOW IT INFLUENCES CREATIVITY:
Remember that when you come from poverty, you starve and you suffer, and what comes out most strongly is your creativity. Because you really appreciate every single thing. You give importance to colors, to material, to messages to everything that people do. Mostly the most big people in history — Frida Kahlo, Madonna, people who have been so strong for society and for the culture in any country — they all come from poverty and from the street. And street is what makes them honest. Street is where everything is going to and has come from. That for me is the most important thing.
ON AMERICAN / NEW YORK STREET CULTURE:
The most strong street culture for me, street culture is when it’s very honest, people they don’t care what fashion is imposing, but they’re wearing because of the wholeness of what they’re putting together things because they like it. So of course Japanese street culture is cool, [as is] the English one, but they’re all very polished, they’re all very conscious. It’s about consciousness. What I love about New York is that they’re honest. They’re just wearing things that are really good for them. They know proportions, they know colors, and they’re mixing colors, mixed materials. It’s fantastic. It’s genius.
ON HIS EARLIEST NEW YORK EXPERIENCES:
I’m obsessed with music and art, so I came to New York [when I was 19] because I wanted to discover. It was the Nineties — club scene, [night club] Body & Soul, house, hip-hop. Rock was ending, and we were starting hip-hop and R’n’B … I remember when I arrived, it was the first time I saw in the club a machine double-checking for arms and stuff. I got inside and this mixed culture of all people all dressing very cool, normal, and chilled. And the music was insane. And I remember I was flying…
One big memory of New York was the freedom. The fact that you could say, you could dress, you could share with anybody whatever you wanted. When I arrived at the airport, I always had in my head, “I’m going to live in this country one day.” — CNN Style
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