Givenchy launched its fall collection, and its new Twitter page, with a cryptic tweet: "The strength of gypsies meets the romanticism of a Victorian feeling." Two very differing views of femininity, but held together by another tweet that came later, a kind of miniature manifesto from Antony Hegarty—of Antony and the Johnsons, who opened the show with a live set, accompanied by the Heritage Orchestra. That tweet called on Men (capital M) to "find humility and retreat" and Women (capital W) to "forge a new way forward for our species."
Ominous stuff, and totally Riccardo Tisci, who often plays with gender codes—and then some. His method is to turn notions of class, art, religion, and history inside out, piecing them back together in a parade of pastiche that manages to be both cerebral and visceral. And so, along with long, diaphanous, gypsy-like skirts and hard leather bodices recalling Victorian corsets, he sent out a range of loaded imagery and silhouettes that touched on his greatest-hits tropes, inviting—nay, daring—you to put the puzzle together.
The show began with Disney's Bambi printed on sweatshirts, belted with a bungee cord, and quickly moved into a series of hard, motocross biker jackets laden with zippers and paired with long, neo-grunge floral skirts. It wasn't long, however, before we were seeing his signature of signatures, kaleidoscopic prints, this time collaged with images of flames and Renaissance paintings, as well as a another recurring motif, a tooth-ringed shark's jaw. Many looks had what looked to be a padded vest, half opened to become peplum. Fur, too, made appearances—some real, some fake, often in the same piece.
All together it was classic Tisci: hard versus soft, art versus nature, danger versus safety, and of course masculine versus feminine. A full-circle sense of finish came with the last exit, Natalia Vodianova, who walked the round runway in a slightly slow gait, having run a marathon in the morning.