Tisci and Abramović had gotten ready together in her downtown loft and she was now glammed up in a belted black dress with a train and a jacket Tisci had patched together from assorted snakeskins. Also in Givenchy haute couture were Liv Tyler, Courtney Love, and R&B star Ciara. Love had missed out on “Marina’s staring thing,” she told me, but was there for her good friend Riccardo, who, in 2007, had invited her to perform in-house at the Givenchy salon. “You have not lived until you’ve seen Suzy Menkes and Karl Lagerfeld moshing in front of you while you’re playing rock in a couture dress,” Love said, noting that onstage these days she wears only “Riccardo, Marc [Jacobs], and Rick [Owens].” Tisci’s clothes, she added, “have a rock ’n’ roll inherent value to them. He understands women and masculine energy in women. He can take some of the strangest elements, put them together, and they work.”
The same might be said of Tisci’s tribe, who orbit him with near- cultish devotion and were also on hand at MoMA that night contributing to the cozy mood, which felt more like that of a family wedding than a red-carpet photo op. In addition to Abramović, Love, and Antony, they include Italian model Mariacarla Boscono, transgendered Brazilian stylist Lea T, London-based Greek stylist Panos Yiapanis, and Argentine-born, Milan-based DJ, event planner, and stylist Marcelo Burlon, who has one of Tisci’s initials tattooed on each elbow.
Tisci’s world, says Abramović, is very much of his own making. “There’s a big difference between Courtney Love and Antony and Lea T,” she said the following week. “He’s able to bring together people from underground and pop culture, music, art, and fashion in the most unusual way, and that’s why the scene looks so interesting. Normally these people would never get together, but Riccardo unites them.”
It was Abramović who introduced Tisci to Antony at a dinner party two years ago. Music inspires Tisci; it’s always playing when he designs, and Antony’s work, he says, “gives me emotion.” For the singer’s 2009 summer tour, Tisci created an ensemble for him that was “men’s, women’s, and couture all together,” he said at the time. “I told him my cat had died, and he made me this beautiful coat,” recalls Antony. “It had hundreds of layers of felt separated by pearls, and it was layered to form the impression of a cat’s head curling around my shoulder. And on the back were all these skeletal plumes. It felt so personal.”
Long before he gathered round him this fantastic constellation of muses, Tisci imagined what it might be like to live in such a world. Growing up in Como, in a poor family from Taranto, in the south of Italy, he was the youngest child and only boy in a household with eight sisters. He was four when his father, a fruit seller, died, and at 12 he started working after school for his uncle, a plasterer, because his family needed the money. “My mom treated me as a man, not a boy,” he told me on a return trip to New York to present his 2011 resort collection. It was the end of a long day, and he was sitting in his suite at the Mercer hotel, his bare feet tucked under him, chain-smoking his way through a pack of American Spirits. “She saw me as the person who replaced the love of her life. She said, ‘You have to learn how to work.’ I am what I am today thanks to my mom, because she gave me this education.”