When we heard that Riccardo Tisci was bringing Givenchy's show to New York this season — and that his collection would walk on the anniversary of Sept. 11 — we knew that we were in for something special. The designer's creative DNA has been shaped, in part, by his admiration for the city, and not only did he invite 1,200 local fans of the brand to the event, he also chose a riverside setting (on Pier 26 in Tribeca) that allowed for an unobstructed view of the Freedom Tower from every seat.
The venue opened just before sundown, and what awaited guests beyond the metal barricades was a well-planned, multisensory experience, orchestrated by artist Marina Abramović. She aimed to create something "respectful and humble" for the somber occasion, beginning with a wooden and scrap metal set constructed of only recycled materials. Performance artists were suspended on platforms against the skyline, as was a monk, whose live chanting set the preshow mood. After the sun had fully set — a consequence of waiting for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West to arrive an hour after the scheduled start time — a gong signaled the start of the 88-look show, which wound a runway the entire length of the pier.
A female vocalist provided the soundtrack, which began with the traditional Jewish song "Shalom Aleichem," or "Peace be with you," followed by music from a mix of cultures and religions. The clothing was a celebration of Tisci's "greatest hits" from his decade at the house in a clean palette of black and white. A main focus was lingerie-like lace dresses — many that were draped or tied around the body — which had that Gothic (yet romantic) feel the designer is known for. To toughen up these sheer, delicate looks, Tisci incorporated plenty of menswear-inspired suiting pieces — some structured, others done up in fluid silk — and heavy embellishments in the form of metal hoops and chains, hanging pearls and textured leather.
Along with a selection of menswear, the drama really came out halfway through the show when a series of couture-like looks (many of which recalled Tisci's past Givenchy Couture collections) walked the runway. There were voluminous black ballgowns, dégradé feathers, cascades of fringe, impeccably layered paillettes, intricate embroidery and patchwork — each the result of painstaking attention to detail. In true Givenchy fashion, these were topped off with conceptual beauty looks, including sparkling, tribal facial jewelry, lace masks and warrior-like metal headbands.
The casting was predictably stellar, with Tisci muses like Mariacarla Boscono, Candice Swanepoel, Jamie Bochert, Lakshmi Menon, Raquel Zimmermann and Kendall Jenner appearing in the lineup. As the models took their final walk, a haunting version of "Ave Maria" rang out, allowing the audience to soak up the final moments before Tisci took his bow.
In an industry where exclusivity is the name of the game, the powerful vibe of togetherness at the Givenchy show was touching — especially on the anniversary of the biggest tragedy in recent American history. On Friday night, it didn't matter if you were a seasoned editor in the front row or one of the curious fashion fans that lined the standing section; each guest was an equal witness to this phenomenal display of respect and hope for New York City, as well as to one hell of a beautiful show. It's one that I'll never forget.