White Hot: Why Givenchy is more desirable than ever

Givenchy struggled to reinvent itself for over a decade – but today, with Riccardo Tisci at the helm, the label is more desirable than ever, writes Susannah Frankel

This confection of loveliness is white (it's spring, white is to spring/summer what black is to autumn), it's pleated (sunray pleats, in particular, are de rigueur), its edges are fashionably frayed (as seen everywhere from Prada to Lanvin), it's layered (layering is the way to see and be seen achieving volume just now) and, finally, it's lacy (tapping neatly into the newly invigorated respect for craftsmanship that is also very much du jour).

As if that weren't enough, the label in the back of it reads "Givenchy". Obviously, we're not supposed to care about such things, but anyone even half-interested in designer fashion is, no doubt, aware of the buzz currently surrounding that name. After all, over the past few seasons Givenchy has been busily establishing itself as among the French designer powerhouses to look out for, and this current offering is cementing that message. It is, without question, the once-tired fashion house's finest moment for years.

For the uninitiated, here's how that came about. An almost entirely unknown Riccardo Tisci was appointed creative director at Givenchy five years ago now and the fashion world viewed the move with unsurprising scepticism. It was no secret that this LVMH-owned brand, which was relatively minor compared to the likes of Dior and Louis Vuitton, had struggled to reinvent itself for a decade and more. In 1995, and surrounded by the petites mains who had been with him since couture's glory days, Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy (yes, it's one hell of a name) took his final bows, leaving behind him a heritage that, while significant, was no longer being utilised to its best advantage. Givenchy looked unremarkably bourgeois without either the youthful irony or vigour required to ensure that the "ladylike" is also, to the modern eye, desirable.

Only months later, and in a blaze of publicity, much of it derogatory, John Galliano was appointed M De Givenchy's successor. An Englishman at Givenchy? And the son of a plumber to boot. When Galliano moved to Dior just one year later, Alexander McQueen stepped into his shoes and was famously – and vocally – unhappy at Givenchy, duly departing in December 2000 to establish his own label in partnership with the Gucci Group. Most bizarrely, it then fell to Julien Macdonald to preside over the house that, fashion legend had long decreed, boasted Audrey Hepburn as its muse. It's small wonder that the French, always fiercely protective of their position as purveyors of quite the finest fashion in the world, were somewhat unamused. Neither were Mr Macdonald's designs for Givenchy terribly amusing. Instead, after four lacklustre years, he too was let go. Enter Tisci, of southern Italian heritage but raised in northern Italy, specifically Como, near Milan.

"To me, Galliano and McQueen are genius," Tisci told The Independent in 2007. "But there are many things that make a label work. The past 10 years at Givenchy have been very confused, but it has such an incredible history and that was in danger of being lost." Crucially, and unlike any of the other names involved up until this point, Tisci agreed to suspend production of his own label when he moved to Givenchy – making it his sole concern. It is credit to the designer that Givenchy is today known as Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci, a sign of commitment from fashion's corporate powers to their creative ones if ever there was one.

Tisci has in common with his predecessors the fact that he comes not from the upper echelons of society but from more humble stock – this is a rags to riches tale if ever there was one. "We were very poor," he has said of his family background. Tisci's father died when he was three years old, leaving his son to be brought up by the mother and no fewer than eight older sisters.

"My mother was a strong personality and never made me feel bad about the fact that we had no money." What he lacked in social credentials, however, Tisci more than made up for with an understanding of fashion's potential power. Having grown up in the heyday of the great Italian designers, he spent his teenage years in the thrall of names like Giorgio Armani and Gianni Versace in particular, and was duly inspired to embark on a career as a designer in his own right. "It was the era of the supermodel, and Gianni Versace was like a rock star. I remember seeing his private jet landing at the airport with Naomi and Kate and everyone on board. They showed it on the news."

Tisci worked for his uncle, a plasterer, for a florist and for local fashion boutiques to support himself through art school, and then went to work in a textiles studio which supplied Missoni among others. He then moved to London ("people in Italy don't care about young people – in London everyone was talking about music, about art, about fashion") where various casual jobs, including a stint as a doorman at discount chain MK One, saw him through his studies at Central Saint Martin's – famously both Galliano's and McQueen's alma mater. Following graduation with honours, he returned to Italy, where he worked for Antonio Berardi, Coccapani, Puma and Ruffo Research before, in 2004, launching his own label. And that label – deeply rooted in the distinctively Italianate aesthetic beloved of the aforementioned Versace, fused with a hefty dose of Gothicism and more contemporary music-inspired imagery, was lovely. Tisci was helped by his sisters who worked with him to ensure that his designs reached the then cult London boutique Kokon To Zai as well as fashion-knowledgeable celebrities including Kylie Minogue and Bjork.

At Givenchy, Tisci just took that mindset and added another layer: a quintessentially Gallic, ultra-chic overview that meant less conceptual posturing and more emphasis on tailoring that was as cool as it was sharp, juxtaposed with a highly complex "flou" element that showed off the intricate workmanship that the Parisian ateliers are known for. And that, put simply, was that. Tailoring studded with signature, square hardware, softer more overtly feminine designs as favoured by rock royalty, Madonna and Courtney Love included, heavy metal jewellery and, more recently, some of fashion's finest designer footwear and the requisite oversized, super-luxe bags have all led to a profile for Givenchy that attracts both a monied client of a certain age and a younger fashion follower more likely to take risks with her wardrobe – just the thing the (fashion) doctor ordered, then.

With this in mind: "Indisputably, Riccardo Tisci has moved up to the elite group of designers who matter most in Paris," argued the influential US Vogue website, style.com, after his current collection was aired. "His work has editors pining to buy and rock stars' stylists competing for first dibs – and for spring, that heat's only going to intensify." Praise indeed – and it's deserved. From geometrically striped tailoring to the type of goddess dress a budding, well, goddess might only dream of, finally, at Givenchy Riccardo Tisci appears to have things nailed.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living