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Givenchy’s Religious Restoration

Godfrey Deeny
January 22nd, 2010 @ 10:36 PM - Paris

They say that religion and politics don’t, or should not, mix. But what about religion and fashion? Well, in the hands of Givenchy’s designer Riccardo Tisci it can lead to all sorts of witty and thought-provoking fashion, especially for men, as he showed Friday night, Jan. 22, in Paris.

Many looks in the Fall 2010 show featured a golden crown of thorns, albeit worn as a necklace, in the latest collection that tapped into Tisci’s religious and historical obsessions. The very fact that he and a French fashion house evoked the suffering of Christ before an audience of 300 in Paris said quite a lot about current European zeitgeist and debates about integrating Islamic communities into Western Europe, especially at a time when the French parliament is debating a law to ban the wearing of burkhas.

Tisci even sent out a t-shirt that showed Christ’s suffering face, over which read in bold letters, “Jesus Is Lord.”

Tellingly, the runway show was held in a high temple of French intellectualism – La Sorbonne, Paris' most famous university – in a ornate, baroque room with huge frescoes, and very tight security.

Tisci, regarded by most fashion critics as a top ten designer in terms of imagination, cut and vision, has frequently included religious motifs in his men’s fashion. But, where last season he mixed up North African garments with Renaissance Italy, this season it was very much a priestly Christian aesthetic.

The almost entirely black and white collection featured monkish sandals, sacristan’s leggings and curate’s gaiters. His medieval tradition was apparent in lots of culottes, with the models looking like figures from Chaucer’s "Canterbury Tales," even if they wore leather bomber jackets.

Tisci displayed beautifully cut coats in serge wool, the sort a preacher would don in a prairie church before a gunfight in a Clint Eastwood western. And he showed a series of white dress shirts in the crispest of cottons, but with a monsignor’s bib, though made in micro ruffles, and thus wearable to a club rather than a church.

Tisci’s invitation was also telling: a Picasso-like collage, where a surrealist hand with eyes drew a handsome, muscular youth.

Two of the last three models, muscular gym rats without shirts, had gilded necklaces of thorns around their necks. The soundtrack throughout was a lady soprano singing “Ave Maria.”

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