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Interview: Riccardo Tisci

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After spring’s love affair with all things ladylike, a/w 2012 brings a darker feminine edge. Stylist meets Riccardo Tisci, the man responsible…

Ah, that mythical season, ‘summer’. While we’ve spent most of it sheltering from unforeseen gushes of rain, fittingly it’s also been the perfect precursor for autumn/ winter’s new mood. This is what I’m musing as I sit in a palazzo on Corso Venezia in Milan waiting for Riccardo Tisci, head designer of Givenchy.

His name may not be familiar now, but it will soon be tripping off your tongue as easily as ‘Karl’ and ‘Lagerfeld’. Vampish, neo-gothic, dark romance – these are words you’ll see thrown around new season trend pages with abandon in the coming months. Which is ironic, as mere weeks ago we were celebrating all things ladylike in a sea of full bloomed florals and pretty pastels.

Indeed, this new, darker mood will also manifest itself in your make-up bag (violet lipsticks, greyish blusher) and fragrance (powerful head-turners such as Givenchy’s latest scent, Dahlia Noir, more of which later). Think Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises; a seductress in black leather and wine-stained lips. Darkness equals mystery and power.

Above: Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci Autumn/Winter 2012

The man who started it all is Riccardo Tisci, the fiercely private head of Givenchy, a famed recluse shrouded in mystery who routinely refuses to speak to the press. For Tisci, this dark, romantic mood is nothing new. He has been quietly advocating gothic beauty for years. Poster-boy for the new generation of designers, Tisci has now accomplished something never done before by a designer: he has embodied the mood of a season in scented form. His first fragrance, Dahlia Noir, is a piece of new-wave couture, an olfactory fabric to swathe a new generation of dark romantics in. He’s finally decided to talk – only to Stylist.

Tisci walks in smiling, dumps his rucksack on the floor and greets me with kisses on both cheeks. As he lights the first of five American Spirit cigarettes, the room becomes heavy with smoke. He sits back and fixes his gaze on me, eyes searching, exploring, paying attention. Where does the catwalk’s obsession with darkness comes from? “Black is always elegant. It is the most complete colour in the whole world, made of all the colours in the palette.” For Tisci, a woman wearing black is eternally sexy. “She is aristocratic, dark, sensual and romantic but it has been this way since I first started at Givenchy eight years ago. Back then, no-one understood. Now, you open any magazine and see gothic as a trend.” He was recently reduced to tears after his hero, perfumer Serge Lutens, said that Tisci was the only person who could do black since Coco Chanel. He sent Lutens flowers

Black is always elegant. It is the most complete colour – dark, sensual and romantic

Ash tumbles to the floor as, gesticulating wildly, the 38-year-old Italian displays his palpable disbelief at the position he has found himself. Picked from fashion obscurity, he was the youngest designer ever to be handed a couture house, continuing the trail McQueen and Galliano had blazed before him. “When you come after such genius, it’s hard. For a very long time I didn’t understand why they took me.” Givenchy was in the red when he accepted the job, but by locking himself away and putting everything into Givenchy, Tisci sparked a remarkable turnaround in sales. The rottweiler-printed sweatshirt from the pre-autumn collection sold out in just three days.

Tisci is obsessed with and inspired by women. It’s no secret that he only took the Givenchy job so that his mother wouldn’t have to sell her home, and he cites her and his sisters as his main influence. “Madonna, Rihanna and Gaga” are the women he is proudest to have designed for. “And not least, model Mariacarla Boscano,” Tisci’s muse and best friend from his Central St Martins days, who he picked to be the face of Dahlia Noir. “These women are all so very different, but they all have this sensuality. Like my sisters.”

Seductive Style

In theory, his new fragrance is the olfactory aura of an imaginary woman, with a dark softness – woody and floral. It has a fragile strength to it, much like Tisci’s couture creations. The timing couldn’t be better. “It’s been years in the making and yet darkness is popular this season,” says Tisci. “It makes me happy to know I have been thinking in the right way.”

Tisci designed his fragrance as he would a couture dress, with fierce attention to detail. “The moment you drop it on your skin it is very romantic, then when it begins to evaporate, the sharpness comes out. It’s multi-faceted. Romantic yet sharp.” But why now? “Women like my sisters can’t afford to buy couture but they want to be a part of the Givenchy world. I wanted to create a perfume that, like couture, would remain classic and timeless so when I am no longer at Givenchy, it will last forever.”

We want to be part of Tisci’s world. By autumn, so will you.

Words: Samantha Flowers

Pictures: Rex Features and Getty Images

Givenchy Dahlia Noir is available from 20 August, exclusively at Harrods

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