Fashion critics have a knack for knowing the future. But even then, it’s safe to say that nobody had bet money on the dark prince behind Givenchy’s renaissance, Riccardo Tisci, becoming the new Chief Creative Officer of Burberry. The announcement, which was made yesterday morning, managed to leave a whole crowd of critics at Paris Fashion Week suitably stunned, envisioning how the storied British fashion house might look through Tisci’s lens.
Instead of Tisci, many people had their eye on Kim Jones taking the reigning Burberry boy Christopher Bailey’s place. The former Louis Vuitton stalwart brought Supreme to the runway for Spring 2017, much like how Bailey elevated Gosha Rubchinskiy to high fashion status a season later. Second in line was Celine’s Phoebe Philo, whose reputation for creating contemporary and commercially successful collections has reignited the French brand; something Hedi Slimane looks sure to toy with now that he has the reins there.
Both of those options were safe bets, but in a house that’s swiftly transforming its outward facing image from Royalty-aligning Brit tradition to punkish and expressive, we should’ve expected a more left-field officer to get the gig.
So how does a man associated with gothic romanticism start a new chapter at a house that carries a rarely dished out Royal Warrant (meaning they can supply their garments directly to the British Royal Family) and counts the modest Kate Middleton as a loyal fan?
After all, during his 12-year stint at Givenchy, Tisci was known for becoming the go-to designer, favored by Kanye West and instrumental in bringing the Kardashian clan to the high fashion fore. His work there was defined by religious allegories, obscure and sexy womenswear, and the iconic snarling Rottweiler motif that made a Givenchy sweater the must-have item a few years ago.
Will those dark qualities permeate the stoic British brand? We’ll have to wait and see, but Tisci’s arrival surely means the culture surrounding Burberry will be experiencing a monumental switch up.
Burberry’s reputation as a historic name in British fashion has lead a collection of famous (if fairly predictable) English stars to become faces of the brand. Most recently, Cara Delevingne, Brooklyn Beckham, and Emma Watson have fronted its campaigns and sat front row, the former even closing Bailey’s final show – a celebration of LGBTQ+ culture – in a technicolour dreamcoat last month.
But with Tisci at the helm, there’s a strong chance that friends and fans Yeezy and Kim could cross the pond to show their support. In fact, at this point, we’d be shocked if they didn’t make it over for his debut collection for the brand this coming September. He’s also enlisted Marina Abramovic and Nicki Minaj to join him in the past, so how the creative director’s unabashed love for American talent will play out could be intriguing.
It’s interesting to consider who might fit both Burberry and Tisci’s brief when it comes to star power, then. Paris Jackson, funnily enough, showed up at his final Givenchy menswear show for FW17 and Bailey’s Burberry bow-out too, so perhaps we should be looking to her to work out exactly where things are heading? In that case, the front row might be getting younger and wealthier, but also more diverse and influential.
The ace Adwoa Aboah’s presence in recent Burberry shows and campaigns has shown us that the house has the potential to harbor less austere and more outspoken talents than they have done in the past. Tisci, on the other hand, has shown that the stars we once thought to be “talentless” have a deserving spot in the high fashion realm, too.
Burberry is currently in a fascinating transition period; one that sees their clientele switch from middle-aged men and women seeking modest luxury wears to the daringly dressed rich kids of London. That’s mainly a cultural shift, and is a conscious one made by Christopher Bailey and Burberry’s CEO Marco Gobbetti (who got Riccardo Tisci his Givenchy gig in the first place). They wanted to ensure the brand headed in a more youthful direction in the future.
As we see with so many brands, that can go one of two ways. Social media stars have a shelf life that can seem invincible one day and completely irrelevant the next. Nevertheless, it seems that the commonality between Bailey and Tisci is their fine judgement when it comes to getting the acting, musical, and sometimes just ubiquitous talents to wear their clothes. One thing’s for sure: there’s no sign of Burberry’s new faces being a predictable line-up. Tisci has his finger on the pulse, and whether we spot Kim K sitting front row in London or not, his chapter in the brand’s history might be its most memorable and provocative yet.