Givenchy's #NYFW Show on 9/11 Was a Tribute to New York City

Givenchy - Front Row - Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week
Photo: Getty Images North America

At Mr. Chow’s in TriBeCa on Friday night, every guest at every table, inside and out, swerved their eyes toward the door shortly after 9 p.m., when Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner entered the restaurant, trailed by security guards and a camera crew. This is a New York City hot spot that is well accustomed to celebrities, but it has never been so bustling as it was in the aftermath of the Givenchy fashion extravaganza that had just taken place on a pier across the West Side Highway.

Kardashian wore a black blazer draped over her maternity dress, a gauzy, clingy number that was transparent enough to display her pregnancy in more graphic detail than an ultrasound. She moved with the precision of a shark, observing every eye, every camera that was raised in her direction. The members of her entourage made their way to a table tucked behind the bar, where they sat for less than one hour, presumably filming an episode that will explain their reaction to the Givenchy phenomenon that had just occurred over the last two hours.

Givenchy Lead - Kimye
Getty Images North America

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West arrive for the Givenchy fashion show.

At my table, we were still trying to make sense of it all: A runway show, with at least 2,000 guests, by a Parisian couturier on the anniversary of 9/11, with an assist from the artist Marina Abramović, and a collection that encompassed lots of fantastic lingerie, men’s tailoring, and multicultural, multidimensional references. It was one of the most phenomenal, celebrity gawking moments New York Fashion Week has ever seen, and the night of Givenchy festivities was not yet half over. And here was Kardashian and crew, settling in for some chicken skewers.

What was it that we had just witnessed? Fashion on Viagra? A boudoir of exoticism? Frederick’s of Bollywood, as I bitchily joked?

It is a testament to the designer Riccardo Tisci, who in an act of creative daring and philanthropic generosity, brought his spring Givenchy collection to New York City this season in a quasi-public showing, that his collection was on the lips of every person in the restaurant. Most of us were killing time until the Givenchy after-party was to begin inside an enormous garage across town, under the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. The collection was both awe inspiring and head scratching in its scope, encompassing Tisci’s ready-to-wear, men’s wear, and couture, in ways that were sometimes challenging to discern during a 25-minute runway show that included chanting monks and an opera rendition of "Ave Maria."

No one would have missed this show! Guests arrived, starting at 6 p.m., on a pier with an unparalleled view of the One World Trade Center building, as the sun was on its way to setting. Abramović and Tisci had created a somewhat jarring set of seating on rustic crates, with performance artists on shanty-like platforms. One man held two tree branches aloft. A couple moved in slow motion, he lifting she, she leaning on he, he bending into her. A lone woman, clothed like all the rest in a white blouse and black trousers, stood under a running faucet for more than two hours.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of standing room tickets had been granted to the public, and those who made the trek to this pier on the Hudson River were treated to a display of celebrity arrivals that will go unrivaled. Julia Roberts, who appears in a recent Givenchy campaign, was the star attraction, but so too were Nicki Minaj, Ciara, Steven Tyler and Liv Tyler, Courtney Love, Russell Westbrook, Victor Cruz, Nicola Peltz, Hailee Steinfeld, Kardashian and Kanye West, and so, so, many more. From fashion came many big designers: Vera Wang, Michael Kors (who said, “This feels like vacation!” to a reporter as he passed by), Alexander Wang, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, Joseph Altuzarra, Misha Nonoo, Jeremy Scott, and Tory Burch. Even Bernard Arnault, the chief executive of LVMH, which owns Givenchy, appeared in person for the event.

What followed was Tisci’s spring collection, which was both reverential and referential, a stunning, seductive treatise on lingerie, with as much creativity and cunning as a McQueen collection, multiplied in grandeur by the scale of the production. There were many jaw-dropping designs that melded multiple fabrics, notably an athletic undershirt fused with a skirt of tulle ombré embroidery, and multi-layered lace pajamas, and lace shirts over lace dresses, and lace jackets over lace nothings, almost all in black and white with tinges of color at the hems. The men’s wear offering was mostly comprised of monastic uniforms of the Delta variety, paling in comparison to the fantastic dresses, but offering a complete and compelling picture nonetheless.

Givenchy - Runway - Spring 2016 New York Fashion Week
Getty Images North America

Kendall Jenner in a look from the Givenchy runway.

What occurred to any observer of this scene, as the sun began to set, and the tribute lights of 9/11 appeared on the skyline, was how discordant it must seem to anyone outside the fashion and celebrity bubble for this to be taking place on such an solemn occasion and location.

But its ambition was to pay tribute to New York City, its resilience, and its humanity. And it worked on that level, as well. As Abramović said in a program for the show: “This event we are creating together is about forgiveness, inclusivity, new life, hope and above all, love.”

Eric Wilson is InStyle's fashion news director. For more real-time fashion week insights, follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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