Get ready for Givenchy’s public offering. No, not that kind, but another kind — one that could be a one-time wonder or could dramatically change the fashion show system for the long haul.
When Riccardo Tisci shows his Givenchy collection in New York on Sept. 11, members of the general public will make up a huge portion of his audience. Twelve hundred “real people” — mostly non-industry, non-celebrity civilians (no proof of Givenchy purchase required) as well as a cadre of students and faculty from local fashion schools — will attend, along with the usual show-going industry suspects.
Givenchy is working closely with the City of New York on this public-audience project. The house will allot most of the tickets — 820 of them — on a first-come/first-served basis to registrants at a Web site set up in partnership with nycgo.com, the City’s marketing office.
The Web site address was released Tuesday Sept. 1 at 10 a.m. via the social media outlets of Givenchy, NYCgo, the CFDA and KCD, and will open to potential recipients at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. Tickets will be available for pickup in advance of the show. A block of 280 tickets has been set aside for students and faculty from FIT, Parsons, Pratt Institute and the High School for Fashion Industries. In addition, another 100 tickets will be distributed to residents living in proximity to the still-under-wraps show venue, with details made public closer to the show.
“The fascination for the house with the American market has always been there,” said Givenchy chief executive officer Philippe Fortunato, in New York last week in advance of the opening of the new Givenchy flagship store on Madison Avenue. He then discussed how Tisci’s interest in American culture mirrors that of Hubert de Givenchy. [For a fuller conversation with Fortunato, see WWD’s print weekly, out Sept. 2.]
“[The United States] gives me so much energy, and I’m very inspired by the culture,” Tisci told WWD in late June, discussing the decision to show in New York.
Fortunato, too, noted the country’s profound influence on the designer’s work. “Riccardo talks a lot about America as the origins of trends, very much looking at the streets…He’s very much looking at the youth of the American market, wherever they came from, the importance of what minorities bring to the American culture. The minorities come to the US, whether from South America, Eastern Europe, whatever. That’s something that’s very, very important, and he’s nurturing his creativity.”
Then there’s the show’s date, assigned by the CFDA. Rather than be put off by the resonance of Sept. 11, the house embraces it. “It’s a very delicate day for America, and so the show is going to be a celebration of family and love,” Tisci said in June.
“We love the element of complexity…so it’s much more than a show,” Fortunato said. “We said we want to celebrate the fundamental values of the house. Of course we celebrate craftsmanship, of course we celebrate creativity. But we want to celebrate what’s behind that, a kind of purpose for the house, and a message of resilience. And a message of humility, because we have to remain simple throughout the big elements of life. Despite what happened, the strengths of the American people, the strengths of New York, are even stronger after 9/11 than before 9/11.”
As one of the most influential designers working today and one with a brilliant gift for delivering editorial mastery with even his most discreet presentations, Tisci’s Givenchy show is among the most highly anticipated of every fashion season. Scheduled as it is in the early going of New York Fashion Week, this one may set the bar woefully high for those who will follow. It will have a distinct art element involving collaboration with Tisci’s friend Marina Abramovic, and will be of a grander scale than that which the designer typically employs. “Usually Riccardo’s shows are very sleek, with a lot of models but very, very focused. This time,” Fortunato offered a bit cryptically, “it’s going to be very generous.”
The show is called for 6:30. To accommodate the crowd, doors will open at 6 p.m., with the goal of a sunset start. The public guests will enter their raised viewing area via an entrance separate from that for the industry crowd.
Fortunato noted that this public element had been a long time in the planning and the brand “dropped clues” at the time of its men’s show in Paris in June. The house outed the outdoor venue on social media, so as to ensure the requisite crowds. “That location was adjacent to the park,” he said. “You had the metal fences, separating the public from the show, you had hundreds of people watching the show, taking pictures. We wanted to see how the public would behave in a fashion environment. It was a form of rehearsal…”
A rehearsal indeed — and perhaps not just for Givenchy. The fashion shows have long been an essential consumer-marketing tool, and that function has escalated exponentially via social media. Brands livestream their shows; industry audience members are often more interested in Instagramming and Tweeting to their constituencies than in paying close attention to the moment. A broadened orientation — or even a re-orientation — toward a live consumer component has been mused about but never acted upon seriously. (In 2009, an AmEx-sponsored Diane von Furstenberg show held during Fashion Week featured the clothes then available at retail.) Whether this (for now) one-time move by Tisci and Givenchy could change that and usher in an era of consumer attendance remains to be seen. Though the thought seems extreme, some readers will recall a moment when a single move by a lone-wolf designer changed the fashion system indelibly. His name: Helmut Lang.