When announcing this week that he has designed stagewear for Rihanna’s 2013 tour, Givenchy’s creative director Riccardo Tisci called the pop star “the face of her generation”. He could easily be dubbed the designer of it.
Tisci’s bold, futuristic designs have become a firm favourite among pop culture stalwarts in recent years, such as when Madonna wore Givenchy to perform at the Superbowl in 2012. His very modern combination of couture and cool chimes with how the likes of Rihanna want to be seen by the rest of the world.
Her new tour outfits are a case in point. The sketches show not only the sexy sportswear Rihanna prefers — see the white leather bra top and opulently embroidered parka — but also a floorlength cape worn with visor-style shades that Tisci fans will recognise as his gothic taste in full flow.
As alliances between designers and pop stars go, it probably won’t reach the iconic status of Madonna and Jean-Paul Gaultier, who together pushed the boundaries of androgyny with slashed suiting and conical bras for the Blonde Ambition tour. But it can be seen as yet another element of the designer’s broad universe — one that boasts a friendship with Kanye West, red carpet Oscar moments with stars such as Rooney Mara and a muse in fellow Italian Mariacarla Boscono, all while labouring under the great tradition of designing for a French fashion house. His skill is combining all these elements while retaining a unified, easily identifiable style.
Take his most recent ready-to-wear collection — which opened not with a glamorous gown but with a sweatshirt. Featuring the back half of Bambi in a photoprint, it’s an aesthetic more often associated with streetwear than catwalk style. Tisci has adopted the sweatshirt in his collections since around 2011, when panthers prowled over satin designs, in a bid to woo the younger, more casual generation who like sportswear and bold designs. Rottweilers and sharks also featured, and were promptly adopted by Rihanna, as well as Usher and Liv Tyler.
The thinking is that even if you can’t afford a four figure gown, you might save up for a sweatshirt your favourite pop star has endorsed.
Like the latest Rihanna collaboration, it’s a way to ensure that a house founded in the ’50s and associated with the likes of Audrey Hepburn is bang up to date — and in with the cool crowd.
Tisci’s genius, though, is to straddle two worlds and never alienate the older, wealthy customer who doesn’t give a hoot about hip hop. Classic sweaters, floor-length gowns and sexy leather pencil skirts, as seen in the latest collection, will appeal to the traditional Givenchy customer for autumn.
Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane might still be the subject of frequent debate with their collections for Dior and Saint Laurent Paris but in his eight years at Givenchy, Tisci has quietly made a language all his own.