Givenchy Spring 2012 Couture
PARIS, January 24, 2012

Riccardo Tisci is in a reflective mood. Pre-fall, men's, and now his Couture collection have found him looking back over his first seven years at Givenchy and reworking familiar pieces with what he described as a new maturity. "To me, the mark of a successful designer is having an identity," he said, citing Miuccia Prada, Donatella Versace, and Lagerfeld's Chanel. We'd say that Tisci more than qualifies.

His ten-piece Couture lineup was divided into three rooms. The first was devoted to crocodile, and what the Givenchy atelier has done to the precious skin is positively jaw-dropping. For a long, clingy dress, the scales on the hide were individually cut and numbered, then bleached, dyed, and resewn one by one in order onto a tulle body stocking. It took 350 hours to make. The artisans who worked on a cropped and fitted jacket (with the same star motif as the designer used in his menswear show) perhaps didn't log as many hours, but the payoff was just as impressive.

Tisci said his two inspirations this season were the 1927 Fritz Lang movie Metropolis and the theme music from a more obscure Russian film, 1924's Aelita: Queen of Mars (add that one to your Netflix queue, pronto). You could see their influence most clearly in the Art Deco embellishments on the dresses in the crystal room. The designer also pointed out the parallels between Lang's high-city/low-city film and his own bejeweled gowns worn over workmen's tank tops. In fact, the tanks weren't as proletarian as all that, coming as they did in a cashmere blend.

The standout in the black and white room was a white silk T-shirt tucked into a black silk cady skirt that unzipped almost all the way up to the right hip, the white sequin lining only flashing when the model walked by. In a week of ball gowns as wide as they are high and beads by the bushel, it takes a special maturity to exercise that kind of restraint, but in its own subtle way, it showcased the same kind of bravado as did the models' nose rings and doorknocker-size hoops. This is a designer with confidence to spare.