To the uninitiated viewer seeing Riccardo Tisci’s spring show sans the cheat sheet of a preview or backstage first look, his message was crystal clear: a formidable gang of seductresses laced into corsets, leather pants and jeans cut with zero room to breathe and layered with tight, thigh-high open-toe boots — mostly black. They wore the constriction with ease and confidence. The tribe also included a softer, if no less intimidating, sect with modern takes on medieval maids in corset dresses that flared into short lace skirts accessorized with big bejeweled chokers, and warrior women in dresses made from strips of studded leather with a black lace underlayer. Point d’esprit poet blouses billowed atop taut pants. Belted blouson dresses came in brash black-and-white stripes that repeated throughout on blouses and a vest made of panels of graphic stripes and Tyrolean embroideries laced together. The look was an improbable amalgamation of Gothic romance, rock ’n’ roll and folkloric edge united by Tisci’s piercing vision. It was a work of fierce beauty.
Students of Tisci’s career who recognized some of the ideas from his early days at Givenchy — when he favored cross motifs, seen here on sheer blouses, and leather rock references combined with brooding lace — would have been correct. “Basically I’m going back to what I was doing in the beginning, 10 years ago at Givenchy when I arrived,” he said after the show. (He also noted the pinball game Flipper as an influence, which might have been lost on all but the rare Flipper enthusiast.) Back then, Tisci was far from the fashion deity he is today — those early collections had as many naysayers as rabid fans. It took some time for Tisci to hone his point of view to the acuity he has now, and for the fuller fashion collective to embrace it. And oh, how they’ve embraced it.