On September 11th, 2015, the house of Givenchy staged its extraordinary S/S16 runway show in Hudson River Park, New York, inviting editors, buyers, and in an attention-grabbing mood, some 800 members of the general public to view the latest collection. The occasion not only marked Riccardo Tisci's 10th anniversary as the Creative Director, but also the introduction of its Madison Avenue flagship, a vast, two-years-in-the-making space designed by Tisci himself, which infuses the house's coveted design codes with the vibrancy and spirit of New York.
The bi-level shop – nestled between Alexander McQueen and Chanel on the corner of 65th and Madison – opens with a minimal, almost anonymous exterior. The idea is that you walk into the space as though entering an uptown gallery (Venus over Manhattan meets Gagosian on 76th, perhaps?), unencumbered by external preconceptions or overt statements of purported identity. Sleek, dark lacquered display cases and white walls welcome you, and upon initial view, not much else – the clothes are the artistic pieces in question. Givenchy New York is not loud on the outside – it's understated and somewhat silent, open to anyone who connects with the house and experience.
Dark Zebrano wood covers the entirety of the women’s first floor. Accessories – from butter soft calfskin bags to studded, black sling-backs – are meticiously displayed on narrow raised bars, and the collection, including a lavish, peacock-printed velvet gown (a global exclusive) is suspended in slick black boxes. Images from the Autumn/Winter 2015 campaign (Mert and Marcus' striking monochrome potraits of Donatella Versace, to be exact) hang above the floor to resemble colossal works of art. The ceilings are two stories high, leaving plenty of room to take in each individual work. The resulting aesthetic is stark and understated – verging on vacant, save the lacquered display cases and campaign images – that it's sure to entice a diverse array of Givenchy lovers, from sixty-plus Park Avenue sophisticates to the beautiful Bright Young Things that grace Tisci's burgeoning Instagram feed.
A contrasting glass and concrete staircase, and a glossy black elevator leads to the upper floor where the menswear is housed. The space, which is accented with pale-green tiles, feels intimate but also clinical. A sprawling Turkish rug covers a portion of the laboratory-like room, and contemporary elements (the tiles bring to mind a fantastically clean New York City subway, the from-the-street silhouettes and references on rack) meet the vintage (that rug, the hand-embroidered details on the sweatshirts – some limited editions of 15 globally, hand-sewn buttons running all the way up Victorian-style shirting, a marble-cased restroom). Mirrored walls amplify the size of an already generous space.
The plan is for the flagship to take on "a slightly new identity with each collection" reveals a member of Tisci’s suitably chic sales team. So, while we revel in the romance of the S/S16 show – with its magnificent set design and plethora of performance artists – we wait with bated breath as to how the collection might translate to and indeed transform the Madison Avenue store...