The roaring growl on the soundtrack that opened the Givenchy show shouldhave been a clue. So, too, the invitation, which was emblazoned with agiant panther head. Yet the big black cat motif that Riccardo Tisciunleashed in his fall lineup felt unexpected, striking and, ultimately, alittle peculiar. It was decidedly different from anything he’s done inhis women’s collection, though for his most recent men’s show, images ofrottweilers were used in a similar way.

It intrigued even as itsometimes baffled. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the panthersmade a distinctive, vibrant print that will be immediately identifiablein the same way that last season’s bananas have been for Prada. Thecolors — black and gold in combination with deep violet flowers — heldyour eye as they traced the hem of a skirt or back of a jacket, evenmore so once Tisci manipulated them into Baroque crest prints.

Subtractthe cats and the dominant message was sleek subversion. With meanpencil skirts, blazers and buttoned-up shirts done in shiny black silk,leather and velvet came a measure of kink. A variation on thatsilhouette featured sheer, narrow skirts worn under ruffled minis. Oftenthe look was finished with a black fur or leather baseball jacket thatwill certainly appeal to Tisci’s dark, arty fan base. But there werebeautiful, feminine pieces, too, like the blouses done in pinkembroidery and a cropped sweater in fluffy yellow mohair worn over ayellow-and-black printed skirt that nudged at vintage Versace glamour.

Butback to those panthers. When considered with the cat-eared baseballcaps and big, fuzzy glasses, not to mention sweaters with BettyPage-style pinups planted front and center on the chest, the whole thingseemed born out of irony. But that’s not Tisci’s style, either. If thecats leapt over one’s head, they started a conversation. And a lot ofpeople have been talking about Tisci this week.

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