American cities compete with Milan and Paris for fashion shows

Givenchy's decision to hold its autumn-winter 2016 fashion show in New York rather than Paris is symbolic

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 July, 2015, 6:13am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 July, 2015, 6:13am

Italian designer Riccardo Tisci has always been a contrarian. From embracing transgender models long before Caitlyn Jenner made it a hot topic, to befriending the likes of reality show stars such as the Kardashian clan without your typical Parisian high fashion snobbery, he doesn't take the expected route. Have you seen the latest Givenchy campaign starring Donatella Versace, a rival designer? Point proven.

So when Givenchy, the storied French house which he has helmed since 2005, announced it would be moving its next fashion week show (women's spring-summer 2016) away from Paris, many were surprised. Instead the brand will hold its show in New York. And Tisci has enlisted artist and friend, New York-based Marina Abramovic, to help him art-direct the show.

It's a huge privilege to be part of Paris Fashion Week, and is much fought for with participating names such as Christian Dior, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Givenchy being some of the biggest and most influential in the industry. But with much of Europe in dire straits economically, and America's growing fashion clout, Givenchy's move this season is also symbolic.

The show will mark the opening of a new flagship on Madison Avenue as well as a major effort to grow in the American market. Unfortunately, as is the case for designers in New York every September fashion week, it's scheduled to run on September 11.

Tisci acknowledged that it would be "a very delicate day" for America and the city of New York in a chat with trade publication Women's Wear Daily, but that he wanted it to be "a celebration of love". However, there will always be a tinge of awkwardness or inappropriateness when celebrating high fashion during such a tragic anniversary. Tisci has to tread lightly and carefully.

The American market is an increasingly important one for big French and Italian houses, even more so today as European buying power fades. Despite that China remains the leading market for a large sector of luxury houses, designers are often wary of a new market they don't understand. The language barrier and cultural gap means some view work trips to the country as a bit of a chore.

The thrill of American cities, however, with the counterculture, arts and an edgier, more sophisticated fashion movement rising over the past two decades, has made it a favourite of younger designers and some older ones.

Just look at some of the cruise shows of late: Gucci in New York, Louis Vuitton in Palm Springs, Dior in New York, and Chanel in Dallas. New York and Los Angeles feel like the powerful new establishment, whereas Milan and Paris represent an older, still critical guard.

We are at a time when fashion has not only jumped into bed with celebrity, but moved into the mansion and brought along all the pets. The stars of music and screen - the Hollywood power set - are based in the US. All this helps with star-studded front rows, bigger media coverage and epic after-parties.

With all this in mind, as well as Tisci's band of American celebrity pals such as Kim and Kanye, perhaps this move is not such a shock after all.