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For Givenchy's Riccardo Tisci, Creative Burnout is a Matter of Choice

The designer addressed the challenging early days of his Givenchy gig (which he almost turned down) and work/life balance at Monday night's CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund dinner.
Amanda Seyfried, Lorde and Riccardo Tisci taking a selfie at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund dinner. Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Amanda Seyfried, Lorde and Riccardo Tisci taking a selfie at the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund dinner. Photo: Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Designers often say that the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund is a great experience even for those who don't win, and that might actually be true. There's opportunities for face time with people like Anna Wintour and a slew of other industry veterans. There's also the annual awards dinner itself, a pretty lavish affair with a red carpet, cocktails, celebrities, potpie and a big-name keynote speaker. Following up Tom Ford and Stella McCartney, who spoke in 2013 and 2014 respectively, Riccardo Tisci took the stage at Monday night's event, choosing to take part in a conversation with Vogue European Editor-at-Large Hamish Bowles instead of speaking on his own.

Bowles started out by thanking Tisci for "overcoming [his] fear" of speaking publicly, calling the Givenchy creative director out for his shyness, which, despite conflicting somewhat with his jet-setting, hard-partying, magazine-covering, Kardashian/West-loving public persona, was pretty evident throughout the talk.

A lot has changed over the 10 years since the designer first took the Givenchy position, which, by the way, he didn't even want at the time. "When they asked me, I was at a moment in my life where I was very young and just about to find my own identity so I didn't really want to take the job. I was completely panicked about it," he told Bowles. "Financially my family was not doing well, so that was the reason I said yes to this job."

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He then recalled having a tough time those first few years. His dark, primarily black aesthetic stood in sharp contrast to the looks of the mid-aughts. "In the beginning, people didn't get it, there were a lot of people against me, which was fine because I understood it was a moment where everything was glitter and high heels and glossy." He stuck to his guns and spent the first years focusing on building the "identity of the house," and nothing else. He was not giving interviews or hanging out with celebrities. "The first five years... I was too shy to give interviews. I was not in any press," he said. "I decided to stop dressing celebrities and I didn't have the courage yet to dress somebody." Amanda Seyfried and Lorde, at the event wearing Givenchy, listened in the audience.

The discussion then turned to designer burnout — a hot topic since the recent and unexpected departures of Raf Simons from Dior and Alber Elbaz from Lanvin, and something to which Tisci seems somehow immune. Bowles pointed out that he is responsible for 16 ready-to-wear collections, 16 accessory collections and two couture collections annually in addition to working on fragrances and store design. He asked Tisci how he's able to meet those deadlines and "still make your Instagram life look like so much well-traveled fun."

Tisci suggested it was an issue of choice. "The first five years I was a workaholic," he said. "Everything changed after John Galliano [was fired from Dior] and Alexander McQueen [committed suicide]. So that made me stop and think." As people became more accepting of his work, he grew more confident. "I decide that I need breaks, I need to travel, I need to go to clubs, I love music, I love meeting new friends."

"I think we deserve it because we're working so hard and it's a job under so much pressure," he continued. "That was my decision to be more balanced."