From the overt masculinity of last season’s prison set, to what seemed like a parody of femininity and saccharine sweetness for A/W 16 - thanks to a marshmellow-hued set - Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci is not afraid to mix things up. He approaches fashion with open arms, both in terms of who he champions, breaking down the out-dated casting norms that have sadly hung around the industry for years, and in terms of the references he looks to.
That Pepto-Bismol coloured space actually felt more like a subversive nightclub than it did some sweet teen bedroom - it was a little sick, a little oppressive, slightly fetishistic. But that’s apt, Tisci himself was an avid clubber and remains a designer who draws on the freedom of the dancefloor and the odd elegance of club kids in his work today. For this season, he’d looked to Berlin revellers for inspiration. Some pieces had warped, fuzzy human faces and bodies on them, rendered in neons. They reminded me of looking across a club dancefloor and taking in the vague shapes of writhing bodies and euphoric faces. Other pieces came with shining, sparkling studs embellishing hems and edges. Disco, Tisci-style. Sounds camp? It wasn’t. Look again and those details also looked punk-ish in spirit. That's because he'd been looking at images of the Botswana Renegades, a group of cowboys-cum-metalheads, taken by South African photographer Frank Marshal as part of his Renegades series, which documents the heavy metal subculture in Sub-Saharan Africa. The pictures inspired the leather jackets and the half-flamboyant, half-camp fringing and embelishments. Elsewhere there were snake motifs. They appeared both as prints and in panels cleverly worked into the structure of jackets - showy and eye-grabbing, they were an extension of the kind of new-branding Tisci and Givenchy champion. They use stars, dogs and so on as a kind of logo - an item may not have Givenchy written on it but it's unmistakably Tisci's. These serpents are an extension of that.
Motifs aside, freedom was the ethos really on Tisci’s mind. Who couldn’t be thinking of such a thing right now, given the state of affairs? Tisci designs for the new world. Some aspects of this approach - his friendships with celebrities, his star-studded front rows, his acceptance of an image-led culture - have drawn perhaps unfair criticism in the past. But his love for love, for want of a better expression, and interest in acceptance, bonding and sharing felt charming this show season.