Givenchy F/W 2016
Givenchy F/W 2016

Fashion is full of contrast and opposites. If anyone was looking for the antithesis to Cèline’s quiet stillness from earlier today, this trainwreck of a Givenchy show was it. I’m sure the idea looked good on paper. I can imagine that, following rehearsal, someone tried re-assuring creative director Ricardo Tisci that the models had the path down and that no one was going to get lost. Personally, I can’t get the Smashing Pumpkins’ lyrics out of my head, “Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage.” There’s a reason that song is appropriate.

Someone thought it would be cute to have models walk through a maze. Guests would sit on benches attached to walls approximately five-and-a-half feet high, just tall enough that models’ heads would appear over the top, and the models would walk between them. Every guest would have a front row seat, which should please everyone, and since the models could see over the top they wouldn’t get lost or have any problems knowing where they were going. I’m sure it sounded really cool in those planning meetings.

Reality was a very different monster. Once guests were seated, they began to feel claustrophobic. They were squeezed tightly together on the benches, which is fairly normal, but normally one can see most if not all the runway. Here, one could only see a couple of meters in either direction. Just finding one’s seat required tremendous assistance. Then, the show ran late. We’re not just talking the fashionable 30 minutes we’ve come to expect. No, 45 minutes ticked by. Then 50. Then 55. When even Vogue’s Anna Wintour gets fidgety, you know your guests have waited too long.

Finally, here came the models. Depending on where one was sitting, the anticipation was suspenseful. From which direction were they coming? How far apart would they be spaced? Would the lighting be sufficient to see? Those at the exit point of the maze had to wait nearly three minutes longer than those at the start. That may not sound like a very long time, and if one can see something other than the person across the aisle, it really isn’t very long. When one is enclosed in what feels like a box, three minutes is forever.

Models walk, or, at least, try. Don’t even bother looking at the shoes in this collection. I don’t know when I’ve seen more rolled ankles than I did here. One poor girl turned her ankle three times inside thirty seconds! One has to assume that if the people who get paid for walking can’t walk, those of us who are amateurs don’t stand a chance.

The clothes were the one part that was done well, though there can be controversy even there, I suppose. Tisci made heavy use of ancient Egyptian-inspired prints, with prominent references to the eye of Horus and Osiris and Isis (the goddess, not the terrorists) very prominently in the mix. Given that these are very ancient symbols from Egyptian mythology I don’t think cultural appropriation is an issue; modern Egypt is vastly different, modern, and contemporary. That given, though, there are some political opinions that might not appreciate any mention of Egypt at all.

Still, the bright colors and designs were attractive, ranging from the simple to the complex. There was a lot of gold, a lot of leather, plenty of pleats, generous amounts of fur, a surprising number of military-style jackets, and an interesting mix of animal prints that were sometimes thrown together in such a way that one wasn’t sure what animal was intended to be represented. I’m not sure how many people understood the significance of the snakeskin prints, but those who did found it a rather clever tie-in with the theme. The most dynamic pieces placed gold foil designs against a black background creating a truly powerful look meant for the Queen of the Nile.  If all we had to talk about were the clothes, this would be a very wonderful review.

But then, the finalé walk happened. Remember, guests are seated. They can’t see where the models are. So, once they’ve passed, people assume the show is nearly over. Tisci takes his bow at the top of a set of stairs. Everyone sees him. Shows over, right?

No. The models were still walking. In fact, they had half the maze yet to go. Guests did not realize that. They stood up and began to try and find their way out of the maze. Immediately, they ran into the models, who, like a diesel-powered locomotive, didn’t stop. Couldn’t stop. If you were caught in their path you had but one choice: turn around and walk with them, quickly, until you came to an opening in the maze wall. There were people scattered everywhere unsure now where to go, how to get out, whether they could get out. Models were pushed, accidentally of course, but the result was still more turned ankles. I counted at least six such injuries that I saw and there quite likely were more.

I sincerely hope that neither guests nor models were too seriously hurt or traumatized by the whole event. I doubt we’ll ever know. If one gets a chance to view the whole collection, I think you’ll find it quite attractive. Bone up a bit on your ancient Egyptian iconography if you don’t get all the inferences. The symbolism really is quite well done. Unfortunately, all that is overlooked when one’s runway presentation is such a colossal disaster. Let’s hope everyone learns a valuable lesson and that hotels have plenty of ice to put on those ankles.

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