Riccardo Tisci’s soft-spoken manner belies a tenacity of will and vision. He finds inspiration in often gritty stimuli and if such triggers controversy, so be it. Enter his fall chola girl, whose “aggressive aesthetics” cited in his program notes provided half of a culture clash created in juxtaposition with elements of moody Victoriana.
Through a seedy, meandering set cluttered with arcade games and motorcycle helmets, the models walked, their hair in tight, braided loops with exaggerated curls plastered onto cheeks and foreheads, framing facial jewelry that replicated piercings and tattoos. They looked beautiful and fierce.
One of the great things about fashion is that it can be (should be) gloriously resistant to accuracy; in the mind, the Latin toreador and Victorian gentleman have little in common. But on Tisci’s runway, short, trim jackets over sleek pants transitioned seamlessly to tailcoats, some with peplums or double cutaways; some piped in un-Brit scarlet. The superb tailoring was sensual but seldom arch, with considerable diversity within the sphere. For example, while most jackets veered sleek, a pair of jeweled stunners featured dropped shoulders and short, cocoon-like sleeves.
Lovely dresses came mostly in velvets – cut, printed, crushed – some corseted, some almost medieval in their fluid lines and Byzantine palette. One loose-fitting outlier: a sapphire gem with openwork bodice and full, rounded sleeves. Tisci also showed a peacock print, no doubt a deliberate choice representative of both dandyism and street cred.
Backstage, Tisci’s pal Kanye West proclaimed it “the best f–king show!” Though perhaps a more raw appraisal than might first come to mind, in expletive veritas. It was fabulous.
Whether cultural critics deem it so remains to be seen. If some in the Latin American community take umbrage at what they consider opportunistic invocation of a particular, hard element of Latin culture, who is any of us on the outside to tell them they’re wrong? If I’m insulted, hearing that something wowed the fashion crowd is not a plus. But fashion has always looked to other cultures, sometimes marginalized cultures (Saint Laurent’s gypsies), not only for inspiration but for context. Trivializing a culture in the interest of delivering a nifty frock isn’t a good thing. That doesn’t make dealing with challenging issues in a creative context – something once considered an essential role of fashion – a bad thing.