This is the first of an exclusive five-part video series going behind-the-scenes at New York Fashion Week and Givenchy's hotly anticipated new show.
Riccardo Tisci (center) with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian Credit: Courtesy Givenchy
On the runway, a good stunt rarely goes unnoticed, and this month Givenchy
may have orchestrated the most dramatic of the Spring-Summer 2016 season.
For the first time in its 63-year-history, the French brand has left Paris Fashion Week to stage a massive, celebrity-studded show in New York City.
"America was the first country to really believe in me," says Riccardo Tisci
, Givenchy's flamboyant creative director who celebrates 10 years at the helm this year. "It's a way of saying thank you to America for what it's given to me."
The show, which coincides with the opening of Givenchy's new 4300-square-foot flagship on Madison Avenue, will include 1,200 members of the public who were lucky enough to scoop free tickets online.
Tisci has built his reputation on these type of surprises. This is, after all, is the designer who champions street wear at a house known for haute couture; made Disney sweatshirts a global style staple; and recently presented a collection he described as "Chola Victorian
This aesthetic has made him a favorite with the likes of muse Kim Kardashian (he designed her wedding dress), Kanye West (ditto his wedding suit), Madonna (her tour costumes), and Rihanna (hers too), who he counts as friends as well as clients.
In an exclusive interview just days before the start of NYFW, Tisci took us on a tour of his choice New York sights and talked us through his lifelong obsession with America, the importance of Bambi, and what the rest of the world could learn from Harlem's sharpest dressers.
Beyoncé wears custom Givenchy Haute Couture designed by Riccardo Tisci at the 2015 Met Gala. Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images
CNN: Why have you chosen to stage your show in New York as opposed to Paris this season?
Riccardo Tisci: America was the first country to really believe in me. The big success of Givenchy started first in America and it then became a European success. And strange enough, it's a coincidence that even for [founder] Hubert de Givenchy, the big step for Givenchy in the '50s was America.
What was your earliest New York experience like?
I'm obsessed with music and art, so I came to New York [when I was 19] because I wanted to discover. It was the Nineties -- club scene, [night club] Body & Soul, house, hip-hop. Rock was ending, and we were starting hip-hop and R'n'B ... I remember when I arrived, it was the first time I saw in the club a machine double-checking for arms and stuff. I got inside and this mixed culture of all people all dressing very cool, normal, chilled. And the music was insane. And I remember I was flying ...
One big memory of New York was the freedom. The fact that you could say, you could dress, you could share with anybody whatever you wanted. When I arrived at the airport, I always had in my head, "I'm going to live in this country one day."
How did you perceive America when you were growing up in southern Italy?
For me, [these were] the two big things: freedom of expression and the fact that I could come here and change my life and express myself ... In Italy you have so many cases of people from nothing who have come to America and become big things -- Sophia Loren, Federico Fellini. People find a way to express themselves in America. So that was my American Dream.
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Were there any particular images or symbols that have influenced your work?
I've used Bambi
. I've used the American flag, a lot of elements that have been related to American culture ... It's fun because anyone would like an animal from Walt Disney, anyone would like the American flag. I'm obsessed with the symbology of America: McDonald's, Marlboro, Coca-Cola, Nike. This big colossus that they've made. They are so strong for culture in the world. They've changed the culture.
What is about the street style and culture that is so important to you?
Street, for me, is so important because I came from the street. I feel at home on the street. It all starts from there. The most beautiful expression is the street. The energy of people, the way they dress. The wholeness they have in the way they approach life.
Do these communities breed something of interest that you wouldn't find in Beverly Hills, for instance?
Remember, I think this because it's my story -- remember that when you come from poverty, you starve and you suffer, and what comes out most strongly is your creativity. Because you really appreciate every single thing. You give importance to colors, to material, to messages to everything that people do. Mostly the big people in history -- Frida Kahlo, Madonna, people who have been so strong for society and for the culture in any country -- they all come from poverty and from the street. And street is what makes them honest. Street is where everything is going to and has come from. That for me is the most important thing.
PIERRE VERDY/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
You took us to Harlem yesterday. What stands out about the neighborhood?
Harlem, for me, pretty much represents New York. And its mix of culture. America is America and I love America, but I'm obsessed with New York because New York is this potpourri of so many cultures, so many people, so many ways to think. In Harlem you saw it - each one has such a strong sense of individuality and style, an honest sense of style.