For a few minutes Tisci went back and forth between Italian, French, and English, as Andrew Heather, his “right arm” in couture, held up patches of goat fur, and Tisci discussed whether to replace the braided collar on Lea’s jacket with leather. “Walk,” he said suddenly, wanting to see the way the jacket moved on her body. Lea walked the length of the salon. After she turned around I noticed that in the back, the fur was formed in the shape of a heart, making her look as if she’d suddenly sprouted wings. “Yes,” he said smiling, when I mentioned it. “Fauns, angels, devils. It’s always coming through.”
In his first days at Givenchy, Tisci would have Lea T try on the clothes he was making after his official fit models had gone home. I asked him about it. “She’s got an energy that’s really my world because she’s romantic and dark,” he explained. “So my clothes look really good on her. I never made a dress that’s super, 100 percent feminine. You always have, like, a twist, something that’s masculine.”
As with each of his presentations beforehand, he was worried he’d be misunderstood. “He always says ‘They’ll kill me,’” said aide-de-camp Lucia Medeghini, who’s been ringside for all of them. But as it turned out, the critics didn’t. The reviews for this collection would be the best of his career.
Earlier that day, as he was nursing his gums, Tisci described how much he and Monsieur de Givenchy had in common, beyond their taste for black, severity, and white shirts. “We’re both related to the art world, to celebrity, without being a celebrity,” he said. “And it’s a real relationship. I have what Hubert used to have with Audrey. Mariacarla, Lea, Marina, Courtney, Antony—they’re my Audrey.”
Tisci and Givenchy met just once, five months after the younger designer arrived in Paris. Tisci fondly recalled their tête-à-tête in Givenchy’s rue de Grenelle manse (one of the few times he’s worn a suit), noting how they conversed about gardening, art, Venice, and Italian actresses before Givenchy advised him, “Remember one thing only: Don’t try to be somebody else. Be yourself.” Givenchy’s take on their chat, however, was not quite as generous. “When I see in the press what he does, there’s no feeling of the house,” he told Women’s Wear Daily in 2007. “I ask myself, ‘What end does a conversation like that serve?’”
But, in fact, Tisci did follow his advice. Five years in, he’s still very much his own man. “It was pretty tough in the beginning,” Tisci allowed, “because people didn’t want to accept me. So I thought: You know what? I clean it up. And when the house is in nice condition, I invite you for dinner. And that’s what I did. I thought: You don’t want to give me a chance? I take my chance. And now everybody wants to come for dinner.”