THE FASHION LAW EXCLUSIVE – On the heels of the Versace couture show in January, Riccrado Tisci, the creative director of Givenchy revealed that he would be designing couture for the Paris-based design house again after a several-year hiatus. Well, according to Givenchy, that reintroduction to couture took place today, during its S/S 2016 menswear show (see all of the womenswear looks below).
A lot has changed at Givenchy over the past several years. We have seen the house up its revenues thanks, in part, to the proliferation of more accessible wares (from Tisci’s first “it” bag, the Nightingale to the rapper-friendly t-shirts) that has facilitated a more mainstream awareness of the Paris-based design house. Analysis predicted that Givenchy’s revenues are set to reach half a billion within the next few years, certainly an ode to Tisci’s introduction of more wearable, accessible pieces, such as luxury t-shirts and sweatshirts with graphics that ranged from Rottweilers and Bambi to religious iconography and floral designs, and “it” bags – things that did not really exist, certainly not in the case of the former, prior to his ongoing tenure.
Moreover, the house welcomed Sebastian Suhl, who joined Givenchy in 2012 from Prada (and has subsequently left for fellow LVMH-owned brand, Marc Jacobs), as CEO. Under Suhl’s direction, the house’s retail structure has been transformed by way of an array of new boutiques. The brand opened a 4,000 square foot flagship on Avenue Montaigne in Paris, and has additional stores slated to open in New York, London, Rome, Milan and Tokyo, and opened its first U.S. store in Las Vegas. In addition to expanding its retail presence in the U.S., Givenchy appointed Devon Pike as the brand’s first U.S. president in January 2014. And last but not least, Givenchy stopped showing couture.
As you may know, Givenchy was founded in 1952 as a couture house. Under the creative direction of Tisci since 2005 (he was preceded by John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, and Julien Macdonald, as well as Ozwald Boateng, who headed up the house’s menswear collection), the house showed an array of noteworthy couture collections. Tisci consistently presented collections for Fall and Spring, but began scaling back in 2010, when the format of the couture shows shifted from couture runway shows to showing looks in a presentation setting. Then, in 2012, the Paris-based design house announced that it would be taking a “hiatus” from showing a formal couture collection was “somewhat unexpected,” per British Vogue, considering Tisci’s fervent interest in the couture arm of the business. At the time of the announcement, Style.com said it was likely because “the brand’s plate is presumably full this year, with Riccardo Tisci co-hosting the Met Gala in May.”
A second announcement from the house came in June 2013, when, for the second season in a row, Givenchy stated that it would not hold its couture presentation. At that point, the ongoing explanation was that Tisci was just too busy (co-chairing the 2013 Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala, creating costumes for Beyonce’s tour, Rihanna’s tour and for the Opèra Garnier in Paris, as well as reviving Givenchy’s wristwatch collection, dressing a few stars for the red carpet and creating Kim K’s wedding dress) to design and show couture, an outdated collection that no one is really buying. (Dior (another LVMH-owned brand) has, however, disproven this, as under Raf Simons the house’s couture collection has experienced significant growth).
In light of a lack of Givenchy haute couture collections, I wondered not too long ago about the house’s status as a couture house. Because “haute couture” is a legal term of art, garments and accessories may only be labeled as such if the design house meets the standards established by Fédération française de la couture in 1945 (and subsequently updated in 1992). Givenchy, which was noticeably absent from the most recent list of official couturiers (and has been since Spring/Summer 2013), has failed to show a couture collection for over two years now.
According to a statement from the brand in late 2012, Tisci would continue to produce one-off couture dresses for clients, “special projects” and high-profile red carpet events, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Ball, while continuing to concentrate on its ready-to-wear line. So, what has Tisci’s “one-off couture dresses for clients and ‘special projects’” come to look like? Well, he has created looks for the past two Met Galas, for the Oscars, and other red carpet events, as promised. The gowns for clients include a gown for stylist/consultant Vanessa Traina Snow’s 2012 wedding and a gown for reality star Kim Kardashian’s wedding, as well as a dress for her daughter and Kanye West’s tuxedo. Most interestingly, maybe, are the creations for “special events.” In this category certainly falls the costumes Tisci created for the Paris Palais Garnier de l’Opéra National’s production of Maurice Ravel’s Le Boléro ballet in 2013. And how could we forget the tour costumes for Rihanna and Beyonce; you may recall that Tisci designed the costumes for Jay Z and Kanye West’s 2011-2012 Watch The Throne Tour and for Madonna’s 2012 Super Bowl performance costumes, as well.
Well as of today, it seems Givenchy is in the process of reclaiming its position as a true couture house, albeit slowly. And now that the brand is firmly situated amongst the ranks of LVMH’s subsidiaries (a 2013 estimate suggests that Givenchy brought in $220 million in revenue, thereby placing Givenchy in at least the fifth position in the LVMH hierarchy behind Louis Vuitton and Dior, as well as Fendi (which reportedly brings in about $ 1.1 billion annually), and Marc Jacobs, the brand (not the designer), which is also owned by LVMH), it may be the perfect time for Givenchy to try to reestablish itself as a couture house.
This may be especially true as Givenchy does have something on its side that some of the bigger subsidiaries have recently struggled with: Growth. While Louis Vuitton, for instance, struggled quite a bit over the past several quarters to report any noteworthy growth, Givenchy is not plagued by the same logo-fatigue and over-exposure as its older counterpart. If anything, Givenchy is not doing anything but growing. According to the past several years’ worth of LVMH Annual Reports, “Givenchy saw strong revenue growth thanks to solid performance across all product categories.” Thoughts?