The roaring growl on the soundtrack that opened the Givenchy show should have been a clue. So, too, the invitation, which was emblazoned with a giant panther head. Yet the big black cat motif that Riccardo Tisci unleashed in his fall lineup felt unexpected, striking and, ultimately, a little peculiar. It was decidedly different from anything he’s done in his women’s collection, though for his most recent men’s show, images of rottweilers were used in a similar way.
It intrigued even as it sometimes baffled. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the panthers made a distinctive, vibrant print that will be immediately identifiable in the same way that last season’s bananas have been for Prada. The colors — black and gold in combination with deep violet flowers — held your eye as they traced the hem of a skirt or back of a jacket, even more so once Tisci manipulated them into Baroque crest prints.
Subtract the cats and the dominant message was sleek subversion. With mean pencil skirts, blazers and buttoned-up shirts done in shiny black silk, leather and velvet came a measure of kink. A variation on that silhouette featured sheer, narrow skirts worn under ruffled minis. Often the look was finished with a black fur or leather baseball jacket that will certainly appeal to Tisci’s dark, arty fan base. But there were beautiful, feminine pieces, too, like the blouses done in pink embroidery and a cropped sweater in fluffy yellow mohair worn over a yellow-and-black printed skirt that nudged at vintage Versace glamour.
But back to those panthers. When considered with the cat-eared baseball caps and big, fuzzy glasses, not to mention sweaters with Betty Page-style pinups planted front and center on the chest, the whole thing seemed born out of irony. But that’s not Tisci’s style, either. If the cats leapt over one’s head, they started a conversation. And a lot of people have been talking about Tisci this week.