Analyzing the sources of inspiration and the recurring (style) themes in a collection is one of my passions, and this is what School of Fashion, my column on Elitism blogazine, is about. I have never studied history of fashion, but I’ve learnt everything I know on books and fashion magazines; my obsession with details and a good visual memory do the rest. I like thinking about the possible inspiration behind a collection, especially when the designer keeps us in the dark; when he/she explains it, my research is a little bit different but equally engaging: not guessing the sources but learning more about them.
Riccardo Tisci has always explained where he gets his ideas from for his collections: the most recent Givenchy Haute Couture collections, for example, were focused on the theme of travelling in faraway countries and re-working some cultural elements from those countries. For the spring 2012 collection he did something different by focusing on a specific historical period (early 20th century) and on two movies – the iconic Metropolis (1927) by Fritz Lang and the less famous, but equally influential, Aelita (1924) by Yakov Protazanov. Both movies are largely symbolical – the latter being considered an instrument for Communist propaganda – and share some themes in common, such as a dystopian idea of future, ruled by opposition between men and machines, capitalists and workers, good and evil.
The colour palette of the collection is strongly related to its source of inspiration: dresses are black and white (symbolizing the Manichaeistic vision on life presented in the movies by Lang and Protazanov), or brown, a shade which mirrors the darkness of the world where the poor/workers/victims of the regime live.
The location – a place which looks like a school gym/basketball court, with wooden floors and wallbars – is apparently detached from the concept of the collection, and I think the contrast introduces further elements to think about.
Stella Tennant wore a long dress in nude silk tulle, embroidered with scales of matte brown crocodile, adorned with metal studs and chinched at the waist with two interwined crocodiles forming a large belt. I usually don’t agree with the use of exotic leathers in fashion, but one must give Tisci credit for the incredible work behind this dress. Crocodile skin has been literally disassembled (each scale has been cut out) and put together again on tulle.
Asia Argento wore this dress at the 65th Cannes Film Festival, on May 20th, 2012: she walked the red carpet with her father – the director Dario Argento – and the protagonists of his latest film, Dracula 3D. She’s famous for her gothic/tormented attitude, but this time she looked elegant and really beautiful. She paired the dress with amazing earrings and matching ring, strappy sandals, a neutral make-up and slicked-back hair.
Saskia De Brauw wore a long dress in silk crepe de chine, embroidered with matte brown beads; a silk jersey tank top (trimmed with nappa); a silk organza jacket, embroidered with matte brown beads, shiny black crocodile (studs have been inserted under the scales) and floral elements cut in crocodile, fixed with metal rings passing through tiny eyelets. The shape of the jacket combines a short bolero and a tailcoat, while the intricate decoration on the back introduces another level to the main source of reference – the star, one of the main symbols of Communist revolution.
Ana Claudia Michels wore a long dress in silk crepe de chine, embroidered with shiny black beads; a silk jersey tank top trimmed with nappa; a silk organza jacket embroidered with black shiny beads and matte brown crocodile. The sleeves have crocodile inserts and the back is embellished with 3-D wing-shaped crocodile elements. The stars can be found on the front and on the back of the jacket, whose shape is quite unusual: it looks like a bomber on the front and like a tailcoat on the back. Moreover, on the back there’s the introduction of another interesting theme – angel wings – which can also be found in the impressive jewellery worn by the models. You may remember the same theme inspired Tisci for Givenchy Haute Couture fall 2011 collection.
Joan Smalls wore a long dress in beige silk chiffon, embroidered with encaged smoky quartz crystals and bronze beads, lined in silk crepe marocain embroidered with gold micro-studs. The strap on the back is a recurring element in Tisci’s collection, since he used the same detail in Givenchy Haute Couture fall 2011 collection.
Rihanna was among the lucky celebrities who got to wear a dress of this collection: she walked the red carpet of the Brit Awards on February 21st, 2012, wearing the gorgeous silk chiffon dress and the same opera gloves seen on Joan Smalls. She completed the outfit with Givenchy diamanté sandals and Solange Azagury-Partridge stud earrings. I’ve never been a fan of her style, but this time she looked flawless.
Kati Nescher wore a long dress in white washed silk satin with a silver ring at the neckline and draped open sleeves, gathered low in the bare back to form a ruffle, all embroidered in small white opaque crystals and larger crystals in the shape of a cross. This dress is amazing in its simplicity: the ruffle on the back and the draped sleeves are the only elements which give it movement, so as to avoid the predictable column dress effect.
Anne Hathaway looked stunning in this white dress when she attended the London premiere of Les Misérables by Tom Hooper on December 5th, 2012. She kept the outfit simple, wearing almost no jewellery (a diamond ring only) and a neutral make-up. I love the contrast between the super-embellished dress, the feminine open back and her short haircut.
Valerija Kelava wore a white washed silk satin blouse with a silver ring at the neckline and draped open sleeves, embroidered with crystals and flowers made of micro-sequins and white opaque crystals. It was worn with black wool trousers embroidered with 3-D flower elements made of caged jet crystals and studs. This is an evolution of the dress above: the blouse has the same naked back and draped open sleeves, but the result is a bit too heavy/over-decorated, in my opinion.
Carine Roifeld, the former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief, wore these black trousers when she attended the amfAR Gala in New York on February 8th, 2012. She paired them with a lace-trimmed black top, a white shirt and black leather opera gloves. I’m glad she didn’t wear the complete outfit, but opted for a combination (shirt and top) which toned the embellished trousers down for good.
Daria Strokous wore a long skirt in white silk chiffon, suspended by a metal chain, embroidered with scales made of transparent micro-sequins and crystal fringes, paired to a silk jersey tank top trimmed with nappa. This is definitely my favourite piece of the whole collection, probably because it reminds me of a piece from Atelier Versace spring 1994 collection – the most refined version of overalls ever. That Versace collection had a source of inspiration in common with this one by Givenchy – working clothes from the early 20th century. Gianni Versace was certainly inspired by the famous T-shaped jumpsuit by Thayaht and by other recurring elements of overalls (suspenders and straps), the same that seem to have influenced Tisci.
Zuzanna Bijoch wore a white silk organza blouse, embroidered with sequins and crystals, creating a 3-D flower at the low waistline, with neck and cuffs adorned with triangular crystal studs and caged crystals. It was paired to a silk jersey tank top trimmed with nappa and a black silk cady skirt featuring a long metal zip, lined in organza and embroidered with transparent sequins. This outfit is magnificent, a perfect balance between heavenly and aggressive: the blouse has spiked embroideries at the neckline, sleeves and back; the skirt – lined in iridescent white – is zipped and the zip slide has the same spiked decoration.
Natasha Poly wore a long dress in white silk organza, embroidered with crystals and silver sequins, creating a 3-D flower at the low waistline, with triangular crystal studs and caged crystals adorning the neck and cuffs. It was worn with a silk jersey tank top trimmed with nappa. The aggressive spiked embroidery at the neckline and on the sleeves is back again, but here it’s toned down by the floral decoration at the waistline and by the amazing iridescent crystal embroidery on the skirt.
Zoe Saldana was the first celebrity lucky enough to wear a piece of this collection. She sported the dress last Saturday, when she attended the 18th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards. She kept the outfit simple and looked lovely, but she made a faux pas by choosing the wrong shoes – a pair of Giuseppe Zanotti lace peep-toe sandals. Luckily, the dress hid the shoes, but this mistake kind of let me down.
Kristen McMenamy wore a long black dress with a silk crepe de chine skirt, embroidered with micro-sequins and floral elements of encaged jet crystals and micro-studs. It was paired to a zipped top in silk organza, adorned with triangular crystal studs and caged crystals, and to a black silk jersey tank top embroidered with floral elements of jet crystals and micro-studs. The decorations on the dress is impressive, but the most interesting element here is the zipped top, where the double-slide zipper creates a beautiful asymmetry between the sleeves.
As you may have noticed, all the models wore an unusual accessory – a nose ring.
Tisci has always imbued his designs with memories and suggestions from his travels, so the origin of these huge diamanté earrings and nose rings must be found in a faraway country – India. The nose ring is inspired to the nath ring, worn by brides and women on important occasions. In this case, we have a double ring, one of which is embellished with a wing motif (the angelic theme again).
As for the earrings, they’re decorated by elements which could be arrows or spikes; in any case, they’re clearly inspired to the statement jewellery by maharanis, but they could also be a nod to similar earrings from Christian Dior Haute Couture 1997 collection.
Here is a short (but amazing) video where you can see some of the dresses above in detail. Take a look at the shoes, too: aren’t they gorgeous?
What do you think of this collection? I think its craftsmanship is impressive and very original, even if it may lack a bit of consistency. The source of inspiration is incredibly appealing, but probably a bit too subtle or intellectual to be grasped immediately. In any case, kudos to Tisci for his designing abilities and for the stunning development of his career.