Everything You Need To Know About Givenchy's 9/11 Ode To America

Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
The Spring 2016 show no one could shut up about for weeks just happened — and it’s only day two of Fashion Month. It was a big deal when Givenchy announced it'd be showing in New York instead of Paris this season, to celebrate the opening of its massive NYC flagship. The buzz grew exponentially when the brand announced that the show’s audience would include over a thousand “real people” — 820 tickets were given away to the public via this site, including 280 tickets for local fashion students and 100 for locals — plus top fashion editors and other fashion people who would normally gain entrée.

So, did the show live up to the hype? For those who scored coveted public access spots, was it worth trekking to a tugboat off a pier to fetch tickets? (That was the only way to get the tickets, which are poster-sized, numbered edition prints by design firm MM Paris.)
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A resounding yes. On a superficial level, the show drew everyone everyone from Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (obviously) to campaign star Julia Roberts plus Nicki Minaj and Deborah Harry. Hundreds of tweets generated every minute as onlookers (both via the livestream and IRL) chattered about the bold-faced names who made an appearance. As for the idea that fashion shows are art, nothing could really beat the stunning sunset; with a glowing Hudson River as the backdrop, a performance piece by Marina Abramović unfolded that involved a ladder, tree branches, a running faucet, some very stoic actors, and one chanting monk that, in particular, inspired some very impassioned tweets.
Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
There was a lot to take in for fashion fans, as well: A little over an hour after the scheduled show time, Tisci's collection debuted with Mariacarla Boscono taking the first pass. The makeup was heavily influenced by '90s Helmut Lang minimalism and old-world lingerie. Draped in silks and lace in a palette of black, white, and nude, the clothing painted a romantic — but reverential — picture of quiet at-home glamour.
Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
And as a continuation of Givenchy's past shows, heavy facial jewelry in the form of bridge piercings, gold trim, and ornate versions of those moisturizing sheet masks decorated the mugs of a series of models.

For those in it for the sport, it was definitely stomach-flopping to watch the models navigate the stacks of recycled wooden pallets that punctuated the runway — and tripped up two models mid-strut after a few seasons of relatively fall-free shows.

But for those who were there to see if this could be one of those rare shows that connects the dots between art, pop culture, industry, and reality, Givenchy also delivered. The show fell on 9/11 — Givenchy representatives told us that while they didn't pick the date, but they didn't shy away from it either — and the brand made significant gestures towards honoring the occasion. The solemn soundtrack of hymns and prayers that accompanied the show spanned six different cultures and religions — a message of shared love and inclusivity that was particularly meaningful considering the backdrop: a leaflet explained that the location was chosen because of its "position and clear view of the Freedom Tower."
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Tisci's choice to show in New York is personal and quite sweet: "America was the first country to really believe in me. It's a way of saying thank you to America for what it's given to me," the designer told CNN (he took a walking tour of Harlem in days prior to the show). Hubert de Givenchy also had deep ties to America and owed a lot of the innovations in his ready-to-wear to a modern, sophisticated, career-focused New York woman who expected that off-the-rack clothes could be both versatile and forward-leaning.
It wasn’t enough to democratize the actual runway show experience through the music, the global model lineup, and mixed guestlist: Givenchy’s creative director, Riccardo Tisci, took the theme of diversity to heart in more ways. At today’s show, he sent out a couple of couture looks, as well as menswear, along with his new women’s collection. A few days ago, the brand hinted at a (probably just slightly) more affordable label expansion by posting an ad for Givenchy Jeans on Instagram. Jeans are basically the most accessible fashion item around, although these particular pairs aren’t totally accessible to all, as they’ll only be available at the brand’s new store. The new denim didn't end up making a cameo on the catwalk (though some speculated it might).

A radically inclusive runway and a big celebration of the brand’s new store might not have been the only reason for today’s extravaganza. Could the shiny new store, unusual show location, and debut of a denim line be a way for Tisci to celebrate a decade at Givenchy, as The Independent’s Alexander Fury hypothesized? Whatever the case, it takes a big vision and a big message in order to stand out at New York Fashion Week — and this was definitely one.
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