This past week, Riccardo Tisci showed his Spring/Summer 2015 menswear collection during Paris Fashion Week. The collection itself, which was derived from an array of influences (think: sports, school uniforms, the street, and even a bit of romance), was largely striped of color. In its place: An attention to silhouette and detail, the latter of which was portrayed via micro floral prints (as opposed to Rottweilers, Madonnas, and Bambis), sheer organza layered over bomber jackets, tanks and tees, Dr Martens-ish boots with brogue detailing and thick white stitching, aviatorish pockets, pearl beading, bold cat eyes (for the girls, because a small handful of girls walked), and skullcaps for all. The set: a Reims Cessna F172E aeroplane, which Dutch artist Paul Veroude dismantled and suspended above the ground. Aside from collection/set-specific details, the casting was noteworthy. Alexandre Cunha, Nathaniel Visser, Diego Fragoso, Filip Hrivnak, Jon Hjelholt, Alessio Pozzi (who appears in the house's Fall/Winter 2014 campaign), and Dominik Bauer - just to name a few - walked in Friday's show in Paris. These boys, while often very successful in Milan, are certainly not regulars on the Paris catwalks, which are most commonly dominated by more waif-ish boys with waists that measure in at under 30 inches. A small handful of others, however, such as Robin Ahrens, Jeroen Smits, and Matthijs Meel, fit more cleanly into the "high fashion" prototype.
The Alex Cunhas and Alessio Pozzis (with their 31, 32" waists) are a far cry from the 27-inch waisted boys that Hedi Slimane routinely casts, the boys with "hollow cheekbones, slight shoulders and legs, encased in leather or artfully ripped jeans, that are shockingly twig-like", as the Guardian rather correctly described the models in the Saint Laurent A/W 2013 show. While Saint Laurent's casting may be an extreme example, the standard for male models has been shifting for some time. With the rise of the skinny silhouette, as pioneered by either Raf Simons for his eponymous label or Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme (depending on which camp you fall into), came the rise of the skinny male model. With the exception of the more commercial ones (think: Adam Senn, David Gandy, Sean O'Pry, Matt Terry, etc.) and the Givenchy exclusives, male models have been getting skinnier, more boyish.
Riccardo Tisci and his team are continually defying the norm. This season it took the form of noticeably manly looking models, not an entirely new thing for the Paris-based design house, actually. Of the boys who hit the runway for Givenchy, Style.com Tim Blanks noted: "The beefy models in their skullcaps looked like the kind of toughs who might hang out on street corners in the south of Italy, where Tisci was born."
As for the girls: Irina Shayk, Isabeli Fontana, Adriana Lima, and Saskia de Brauw hit the runway. None of them are under 16, as is not an uncommon age for girls to walk in shows. In fact, none of female models that walked in the S/S 2015 show are under age 18, which is particularly noteworthy, as the majority of girls that walk for brands from those in New York to the ones in Paris are often younger.
The diversity in terms of race that we saw on the Givenchy runway is also worthy of discussion, although it certainly not a novel concept for the Paris-based design house, which casted Asia Chow, Maria Borges, and new face Riley Montana for its Spring/Summer 2014 campaign, along with singer Erykah Badu.
Givenchy is strides ahead of most of its fellow brands in terms of diversity. I am not going to call out specific houses for not casting enough non-white models because I believe that designers, like any of type of artist, are free to cast whoever they believe is most representative of their vision for any given season. Instead of calling out designers, I believe it is more effective to commend those that are excelling, and Riccardo and his team consistently provide a refreshing take on beauty by way of a genuine embrace of diversity. Of the house's casting, which is done under the direction of Patrizia Pilotti, Tisci said after the S/S 2015 show: "I'm always very obsessed with the casting. During the year I find men and women from around the world. Sometimes I think it's sad that an agency always presents the same girls to a designer."
With the push for more diversity growing a bit with each season (and then largely dying down in between), I think it is important to celebrate the forces that consistently embrace a wider spectrum of beauty. With this in mind, Tisci serves as a refreshing change.
Token casting, the deliberate use of one or two non-white models just to say you casted one or two non-white models (and to avoid allegations of racism in the bi-annual fashion runway diversity round ups that fashion blogs are known for)), is inauthentic, transparent and does little to further equality on the runway, which is why it is refreshing to see individuals like Riccardo and his team furthering his brand by way of authentic diversity. It is only genuine instances like this that will assist in shifting the standard of beauty from a very fixed definition to one that is more open minded. He is also proof that we don’t need to pressure designers in order for them to use more than just white models in their runway shows.
* This article was initially published in July 2014.