With so very many shows on the schedule, there is a lot of pressure to keep interest going throughout the day. So, schedules are set so that the most popular shows come last. Yesterday, it was Jean Paul Gaultier and the hype for a single show has never been larger. Tomorrow is Saint Laurant, which has its own cult following. Today, however, was Givenchy, a celebrity-centered brand powered by creative director Riccardo Tisci. Noise for this show wasn’t too loud when the day started, but by mid-afternoon it had reached fevered pitch, as though it had suddenly filled an invisible hole in the day’s schedule. Suddenly, it was all anyone could talk about. But was the show over-hyped and, if so, whose fault is that?

Sure, we’d like to think that fashion shows are all about the clothes. For fashion purists, they are. But for the labels the shows are also about building brand awareness and achieving top-of-mind recognition. This is a very crowded industry with more and more people entering it every day. One has to fight to stay at the top of the pack.

When measuring whether a show’s content matched the hype, there are a number of tools I use in addition to the clothes themselves. For example, there’s the Vogue editor scale; how many Vogue editors were present? With 28 different Vogue brands, they can pretty much form their own army when they want. For tonight’s Givenchy show? I only counted eight, with Suzy Menkes being the only prominent editor there. The way the room was split up, though, I might have missed some. Then, there’s the Bill Cunningham scale. Bill’s been attending fashion shows longer than I’ve been alive. How often he lifts his camera is a pretty good indicator of whether the clothes coming down the runway are very unique. I counted seven shots early in the show, then he put his camera down and didn’t pick it up again. By the end of the show, he was flirting with the young women seated next to him. There’s the traffic scale, and this one really needed signal lights  as models nearly collided on a regular basis. There’s the shoe trauma scale, where we count how many models fall because of their footwear. We only saw one slip on the finale walk, the result of a bit too much speed for the corner. I’ve developed many such scales over the years and by the end of this show the results were quite mixed.

Unfortunately, judging solely by the clothes doesn’t help much, either. One of the first things we noticed were the skin-tight thigh-high patent lace-up boots that everyone else quit using two seasons ago. Leather strapped gladiator skirts were another flash from the past we’d just as soon not see return. Then, there were those sweaters that looked a bit like mohair except they were metallic; one of those ideas that sounds cool on paper, but doesn’t come remotely close to working in the real world. I have mixed feelings about some of the front lace-up tops as sometimes the effect worked really well, such as on white peasant tops, but not so well on some of the leather pieces. Finally, there’s the very depressing lack of color. Smaller labels can get away with this on the assumption they have a more niche audience to address, but that’s certainly not the case with Givenchy. There was one, that’s it, just one pink dress in the whole mix. Everything else was black, white, and brown. For a major label, such a boring palette is a disappointment.

Hold on, though, there are some good points as well. There is a leather theme running through this collection that is driven by grommet-studded leather-stitched panels. When I first saw them I thought it was nice but a little gimicky. As we went on through the collection, though, Tisci became increasingly creative with the technique. Mixing leather with knits in this way, Riccardo has developed some incredible pieces, especially sleeveless and backless tops. Speaking of those tops, by the way, they really are something different from what we’ve seen. In some ways, they resemble aprons, open in the back, with ties at the neck and the waist. Yet, they are substantially more complex on the front where they look more like jackets as they’re coming down the runway. It is only when they make the turn that one is surprised to find there’s no back. Each of these pieces was nothing short of amazing examples of craftsmanship.

Other nice touches include very tasteful and well-applied black and white stripes (a look that can go wrong quickly if not handled in moderation), pleated skirts that are a mix of patterned prints and sheer, and layering ruffles over pleats on that pink dress might well make it the most impressive piece in the entire collection. I wouldn’t have minded seeing him do a few other riffs on that technique.

Final scale for a show is the level of response it gets on the final walk through. This was a very large venue that was sectioned off by floor-to-ceiling curtains, so the level of peer pressure was severely reduced. What would happen? Interestingly enough, the portion of the room dominated by buyers stayed pretty quiet. There was scattered polite applause, but a large number sat there with their cell phones in their hands checking messages, obviously not impressed. As the models made their way around to where the celebrities were seated, though, the applause grew significantly and a few cheers were tossed into the mix.

I’ll let you decide, dear reader, how to interpret that result.

This was far from being Tisci’s best Givenchy collection. While there were some truly outstanding and creative pieces, the collection as a whole was mixed at best. Next year he will be celebrating his tenth anniversary with the label. Perhaps he’s saving all the really amazing ideas for then.

Photo credit:  Monica Feudi

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