Givenchy’s return to America, a brilliant marketing exercise

Sebastian Suhl’s tenure at Givenchy as CEO has forever influenced the evolution of the dormant Parisian house, owned by giant LVMH. Upon his arrival at the house, despite Riccardo Tisci’s clout, Givenchy was among one of the smaller luxury fashion players within the LVMH Group, along with Emilio Pucci, Kenzo and Thomas Pink.

With a carefully planned retail expansion with DOS (directly operated stores) and a most sensible retail design concept Sebastian Suhl, formerly, COO of Prada catapulted Givenchy, in less than 3 years, to a top ranking, both in terms of financial performance and brand recognition and awareness.

Demonstrated improved financials and an attractive product offering for both men and women have prompted owners to invest heavily in the brand, giving Creative Director Riccardo Tisci ‘space’ to think and plan BIG, including the option of some controversial decisions (the appointment of Donatella Versace as the face of Givenchy for Fall Winter 2015-16).

The latest undertaking,  Givenchy’s debut at New York Fashion, has stolen the limelight grabbing global attention through live streaming on the internet. Some of the innovative approaches included the choice of a open-air street location as well as the fact that 80% of the attendees were regular New Yorkers who were able to register prior, thus paying tribute to the purposely chosen date, the emotionally charged September 11th.

The choice of New York has been perfectly synchronized with the opening of the new Givenchy flagship store on Madison Avenue, after an absence of more than a decade. With the major slow-down in Greater China, Russia and South America, the U.S. is the obvious strategic business choice for all major luxury brands, both for Americans as well as foreign visitors.

For the show, Tisci collaborated with socialite / artist Marina Abramovic, As artistic director of the show, she created a set that utilized recycled materials and debris, as well as included performance pieces and music from six different cultures and religions. It was about inclusion. It was moving and it was heartfelt (her show notes explaining it all especially so) and it all took place beneath the watchful September-summer glow of the Freedom Tower as the sun shone, and later went down.

“It was a very honest collection,” said the designer backstage – though not until he’d caught up with Julia Roberts, Steven and Liv Tyler, and Naomi Campbell. We, of course, clocked Kim and Kanye out front, and there was Debbie Harry and Antony Hegarty (who has performed previously at his show) there too. Tisci has pulling power.

He took a bride and groom as inspiration to transpose masculine and feminine elements – the wedding dress, the tuxedo. He combined and mixed and matched them so that there was an overriding exquisite boudoir feel for chemise dresses that gathered at shoulders, splayed in asymmetric lace layers with a delicate and wispy lightness. They came in black and they came in white. Robes fell into being waistcoats or vice versa and lace slips teased above trousers, trails of satin enlaced around legs and streamed behind the girls.

“There is a sport feeling too, street style, the real concept to show on the street” – and so that’s how his choice of location, Pier 26, came into being: it was as close to being on the streets as he could get in New York City. “Something for everyone.” Ten years at Givenchy and Tisci is making sure no one misses out on any of the celebrations – clothes, experience, love, the lot.

With his job accomplished at Givenchy, Sebastian Suhl was called earlier this year to the rescue of Marc Jacobs which has been experiencing a downfall in the past years, with a loss of creative identity, especially since the departure of Marc Jacobs from Louis Vuitton to focus on his namesake brand.

Oliver Petcu in London