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Could Givenchy’s Public Show Set a New Template?

On September 11th, Givenchy opened the doors of its meditative, mould-breaking show, co-art directed by Riccardo Tisci and Marina Abramović, to members of the public. Is this the way forward?
Givenchy Spring/Summer 2016 | Source: BoF
  • BoF Team

NEW YORK, United States — On Friday evening here in New York, Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci staged a powerful runway spectacle, embedded with Marina Abramović-directed performance artworks with titles like "Trees to Give Support and Life Force" and "Ladder to Remind Us of the Cycle of Life and Love." Held on the anniversary of 9/11, in clear view of the Freedom Tower, the show featured 88 looks from couture and ready-to-wear, as well as music from six cultures — from Buddhist chanting to Ave Maris Stella — and conveyed an unmistakable message of love and global unity. "The event that we are creating together is about forgiveness, inclusivity, new life, hope and, above all, love," read show notes written by Abramović.

In a first for a major luxury brand, the spectacle, which coincides with the rising importance of the US market and the recent opening of a 4,300-square-foot Givenchy flagship at 747 Madison Avenue, was also open to 1,200 members of the public, offering the ultimate consumer experience for fans of the brand.

Did it work? And could the Givenchy event set a new template for the industry, at a time when fashion shows are increasingly seen as consumer marketing events? BoF spoke to a handful of industry insiders to find out.

Steven Kolb, president and chief executive officer, CFDA

“The CFDA worked closely with Givenchy in scheduling its show in New York. Given the sombre anniversary of 9/11, from day one, [Tisci] set to do a show that was poignant and respectful. By opening the attendance to the public, the city became the venue and New Yorkers got to experience first-hand the creativity of our industry. On all accounts, it was extraordinary.”

Tim Blanks, editor at large of The Business of Fashion

"When you think back to the '70s, when Kenzo and Thierry Mugler used to do those absolutely gigantic shows in stadiums, they were open to the public. In that respect, it's not a new idea. It has been done before. But I think that this comes at a time when there's been talk about how the industry is really being taken over by show business — almost literally. Now, the notion of spectacles becomes a bread-and-circuses kind of thing, except that I don't really see many people with the means to do it. Who has the means to do it? Chanel and Dior, I suppose; the top strata of bigger conglomerates."

Vanessa Friedman, fashion director and chief fashion critic of The New York Times

"I don't think the Givenchy show will be a template for the broader industry, because I really think it was sui generis. Its power came from the conjunction of date and show, and how Riccardo handled it, which was with enormous sensitivity and aesthetic finesse. That said, however, there's no question that brands with the financial means to do it are increasingly using one-off shows as major marketing set pieces, a la Valentino couture in Rome, or the huge travelling cruise collection extravaganzas from Vuitton and Dior, or this show in New York. I expect that will become a real trend and will increasingly include consumers and the public, since it's such an effective form of direct communication."

Susanna Lau, editor and founder of Style Bubble

“Givenchy's show perhaps was the moment where fashion as entertainment really hit a new zenith, because of the scale of the show and the historical weight of the house. It might have been a one-off gesture, but it will be hard not to look at facets of the show — live streaming at Times Square, giving away tickets online — and not adopt them at other houses. It made me think about fashion week as a commodity: instead of brands giving out tickets as a token of goodwill, as Givenchy has done, will they begin to sell tickets to anyone who can afford them?”

Justin O’Shea, buying director of

“At some point, exclusivity is accessibility. If you give a load of people an opportunity to have a touch of closeness to something, then it just spreads like wildfire. At the moment, you don't need a million clients. You just need a few devoted ones. I think that with a brand like Givenchy, or any in the top stratosphere, you get the opportunity to make a lifetime fan — the show that they did last night, whether or not people can afford it, they will save up their money because when they wear it, they'll tell the story. That is something that's really smart — to make people want something. It's not easy to do without diffusing the luxury image.”

Robin Givhan, fashion editor of The Washington Post

“I think the Givenchy experiment worked. There was no apparent calamity that came from allowing the public to witness first-hand fashion at its most creative and dynamic moment. And the public responded with both respect and admiration. That dialogue is important in deepening the connection between fashion and consumers, particularly because I think social media can give a false sense of intimacy.”

What did you think of Givenchy’s Spring/Summer 2016 show? Tell us in the comments section below.

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