Kim Kardashian sets the scene for Givenchy at Paris fashion week

Dec 4, 2016 @ 3:15 pm
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Givenchy’s sucker-punch sex appeal softened by intricate craftmanship that suggests a nose-to-nose, pillow-talk intimacy.

Hubert de Givenchy had Audrey Hepburn; 60 years later, Riccardo Tisci, current creative director of the house that Givenchy founded, has Kim Kardashian.

The comparison is neither acid, nor arch. The correlation is surprisingly close. Givenchy costumed Hepburn for films and dressed her for awards ceremonies, developed a personal relationship with her, and made her the public face of his perfumes. They were pioneers of a mutually beneficial designer-to-celebrity hook-up that is now an industry standard for fashion, and of which Tisci and the Kardashian-Wests are simply the foremost example.

Indeed, Hepburn, with her gamine crop and boyish figure, was a compelling celebrity in part because her look was so different from the mainstream feminine ideal of her day: there is a parallel here, also, with Kim Kardashian. (It should perhaps be noted that in their later years, Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn remained devoted friends, out of the spotlight, until her death in 1993. On that front, only time will tell if the comparison holds.)

And yet it feels undeniably strange that the Givenchy catwalk show at Paris fashion week should be annexed into celebrity culture to the extent where it functions primarily as the centrepiece of the Kardashian-Wests’ quasi-state visit to Paris. The couple, whose wedding outfits Tisci designed this summer, were accompanied by their one-year-old daughter North West, whom Tisci had gifted with a bespoke full-length black chiffon Givenchy dress, for the occasion. They were seated as guests of honour, next to the other powerful family in the Givenchy constellation: Bernard Arnault of LVMH and his daughter Delphine, also a senior executive in the group, which owns Givenchy.

The show itself was hardly wholesome family fun, but it was a powerful collection. Tisci’s aesthetic is hard-edged and at the same time intimate and sensual. Like Donatella Versace, his gift is that dresses that would be brassy and cheap if they came out of any other design studio look, in his hands, like clothes for fallen angels.

On last night’s catwalk, black jersey dresses, bound and strapped around the waist and breasts, fell softly from the hips to tickle the top-stitched edges of black thigh-high boots. Jackets in pirate-stripes of black and ivory silk were laced tightly over frothy white lace.

Givenchy’s sucker-punch sex appeal is softened by intricate, miniaturist-scale craftsmanship that suggests a nose-to-nose, pillow-talk intimacy: chiffon in painstaking rows of quarter-inch pleats, corsets fastened with slender cross-laced silk ribbons. And if that doesn’t sound entirely in keeping with the vision of Hubert de Givenchy, then rest assured that the house signature Bettina blouse, with its soft shoulders and flounced sleeves, had pride of place in this collection, and looks particularly ravishing with a pair of tight leather trousers.

Mademoiselle North West was unavailable for comment after the show, having nodded off.

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