Riccardo Tisci: The latest move in fashion's game of chess
Since 2015, Raf Simons has left Dior, Hedi Slimane departed Saint Laurent, Alber Elbaz moved on from Lanvin and Alexander Wang made room for Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga. Most recently, however, was Riccardo Tisci’s announcement that he will depart from Givenchy after over a decade with the fashion house. Admittedly, I was never a huge fan of Tisci or his work at Givenchy, but I think it would be foolish to understate the scope of his accomplishments in the twelve years spent at the French brand. In his time spent at the helm of Givenchy, Tisci was able to help the label rebound from a period of stagnation under John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Julien Macdonald. He did this by finding a way to create a distinct image that could draw in a large audience. The house’s success had flatlined under a few creative directors because the brand’s collections had little-to-no cohesion, and Tisci was able to put an end to that. Where Hubert de Givenchy’s original designs were made iconic by Audrey Hepburn, Tisci was able to draw in the likes of Beyonce, Michelle Obama and Kim Kardashian to sport his designs on the red carpet and out in the Hollywood Hills.
Designer labels are always associated with an exorbitant price tag, which means that the average consumer of a brand like Givenchy is going to be quite wealthy. That said, there are some items, often popularized by celebrities, that can transcend this price-gap to the point where both middle-class and upper-class people wear the garment as a badge of honor. Those currently unable to buy the piece will spend a month saving every cent possible from their paycheck in order to subsidize the purchase. Givenchy’s Rottweiler print has been a staple in designer fashion since 2011. These shirts will still sell for upwards of $500 on secondhand sites. In fact, I would argue that someone would be hard-pressed to find a more iconic graphic print at any other designer house.
Building on his ability to reach the streetwear demographic with his graphic tees, Tisci collaborated with Nike starting in 2014 on his NikeLab x RT collection, which features both apparel and footwear (some pretty cool and some not so much). While there’s no reason to imagine that his collaborations with Nike will not continue, the benefits of the symbiotic relationship between Givenchy and the NikeLab x RT are hard to ignore. He was both able to draw the sneakerheads into his work at Givenchy for consumers who aspired to dress like celebrities, and draw Givenchy consumers into purchasing highly sought-after Nike sneakers.
Not only was Tisci’s time at Givenchy good for building brand exposure, but it also was great for commercial success. According to WWD, Givenchy’s revenue has increased more than sixfold and the number of employees has increased over threefold since taking the reins in 2005, an incredible feat for a designer.
While it’s unclear who will succeed Tisci at Givenchy (Virgil Abloh? I hope not, but it certainly isn’t improbable), it’s also unclear what Tisci’s next move will be. Maybe he will continue designing for NikeLab, or maybe he will move to Versace. Regardless of his choice, it’s obvious that Tisci’s next post will have expectations for him that are just as large as the shoes he has left to fill at Givenchy.