This is the third episode in an exclusive five-part video series documenting one of the most important weeks on the fashion calendar. Episode four, starring Kim Kardashian, airs Monday October 28 on CNN Style.
If you've ever flipped through at a fashion magazine, say, or perhaps looked up at a perfume billboard, you'll recognize one of Riccardo Tisci's girls. Over the last decade, the Givenchy creative director has personally discovered and, in the eyes of many, anointed some of the industry's top models.
His seal of approval has seen virtual unknowns catapulted to lucrative endorsement deals, prestigious advertising campaigns and regular appearances in the pages of every edition of Vogue.
"I am very well known in the fashion business because I discovered so many of them who became stars, like Joan Smalls
, Saskia [de Brauw]
, Lara Stone
, Natasha Poly
," Tisci says. "Each year, everyone is waiting [for] the girls of Givenchy like 'which one is the next girl?'"
The process usually goes something like this: Tisci sees a model at a casting or in photos. He books her as a catwalk exclusive, making her off limits to other fashion houses. At the end of the season, the girl finds herself with more runway and campaign offers than she can reasonably handle. Rinse, repeat.
Or maybe it's not so simple. Tisci can easily see up to 1500 models a year, so there's a lot of digging required to find the diamonds.
"I am [thinking] about personality because these days you do castings and meet so many beautiful girls, and sometimes they are not making it because they don't have the character or the strength to become an icon or a top model."
Here, Tisci breaks down how he discovered his favorite girls.
Watch the first and second episodes of the series here and here.
Joan Smalls - The Mogul
Notables: Currently places sixth on Forbes 2015 list of highest paid models. In 2011, she became the first Latina to represent Estée Lauder. She's walked every major runway, from Chanel and Dior to Balmain and Versace.
First Givenchy experience: Givenchy exclusive for Spring/Summer 2010 Haute Couture
Tisci's take: "I am always asking my casting agent to send me pictures, and I saw this black girl and I was like wow, she is so beautiful. I knew that she was a girl who was just doing catalogue and commercial stuff; she was not making it. But I didn't care ... She had these little bambi eyes but you could see she was also quite a strong girl. She could be strong and she became very powerful."
Lara Stone - The Bombshell
Notables: The curvaceous Dutch model presently has 10 Vogue Paris covers under her belt, along with advertising contracts deals with Calvin Klein, L'Oreal, Tom Ford, and Stella McCartney among others (and that's just this year.)
First Givenchy experience: Givenchy Spring-Summer 2008 campaign
Tisci's take: "When I discovered Lara Stone, Carine Roitfeld was at French Vogue and I called her and said "Carine, take a taxi, come to Givenchy' -- because she was at her office -- 'Come, I have to introduce to you the new Brigitte Bardot.' And so she took a taxi and she met her, and two months after [Stone] was on the cover of French Vogue. And I do that with Anna Wintour each time I am excited with people. I say 'Guys, she is like a diamond.'"
Lea T - The Trailblazer
In 2010, Lea T
became the first trans model to appear in a major fashion campaign. She's since had editorials in Love Magazine
, Dazed and Confused
, and Vogue Paris
, and is the current face of Redken.
First Givenchy experience: She was Tisci's personal assistant, fit model and friend before appearing in the Autumn-Winter 2010 campaign
Tisci's take: "[Casting Lea T] was a big moment for me and Lea because it was not just about helping a friend, but celebrating. [We were not] changing the world, but we did make some noise and we made people stop and think about [being trans], there's nothing wrong with it."
Greta Varlese - The Panther
Notables: One of the faces of both the Givenchy and Prada Autumn-Winter 2015 campaigns. She's had spreads in Vogue Italia, Vogue Japan and British Vogue in the last two months.
First Givenchy experience: Givenchy Autumn-Winter 2015 Men's show
Tisci's take: "This little girl is in a way a little bit snobby, in an ironic way she's detached from everybody, which is cute and fresh and young and naïve. With this amazing body and this fantastic face which looked like it was from Victorian times I fell in love, and straight away I looked at my casting agent and was like 'Exclusivity right away, and campaign' ... I was right because the moment she did the Givenchy campaign, she became like she is queen of the last two seasons, last two catwalks in all the world ... She is the hottest girl of the moment!"
Leila Goldkuhl - The Next Big Thing
Notables: Givenchy exclusive for Spring/Summer 2016
First Givenchy experience: (see above)
Tisci's take: "You know when a girl she is going to become an icon. They have this way. They have this attitude, they have this way, their eyes ... She was an American girl. She didn't know who I was or probably what was Givenchy ... She came inside and had these big eyes like Bambi and these perfectly designed lips, white skin, tall, perfection of a body, and a fragility about her ... I put her in exclusivity. She is going to do the Givenchy campaign and I promise you she is going to be the next big American star for sure."