LIFE

Riccardo Tisci Thinks of Himself as a Strong Feminist

Growing in a family dominated by his eight older sisters, the Italian at the helm of Givenchy learned how to design for other strong women like Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian.


Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Riccardo Tisci was just 31 when he was appointed creative director of Givenchy, a label with a storied legacy that was no longer a serious player in the fashion conversation. A decade later, Tisci is at the helm of a very different couture house, one resuscitated by his romantic touch and his savvy cultivation of strong female celebrities like Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian, who regularly wear his designs. At 42, the child of a working-class southern Italian family dominated by strong women – he has eight older sisters – Tisci is one of the most acclaimed designers in the business and his collections, like the one he’ll show Sunday in Paris, are among the most anticipated on the fashion calendar. For him, though, it all started as a child when he used to watch his sisters get ready to go out on a big night out on the town.

You started thinking about fashion when you were very young. What was the first thing you actually designed? I customized some very old clothes on my best friend, a woman. I put together a man’s shirt with a lace, Victorian dress. I was 13. I used to work in the clubs and I used to dress my friends in the costumes to come to the club.

And did you used to dress up yourself too? Yes. I used to dance in a club in Milan and I used to have a very strong look with long black hair. I was obsessed with The Cure, so I was making this very goth makeup. And I was making my clothes like out of very crazy stuff – with black capes, vinyls. It was always very Goth not so much fashion. And then, I was started discovering hip hop, like a more sexy music.

And you were the only boy with all girls, right? Yes. I’m the last kid after eight sisters. But I have always been very independent. I started working when I was really a young kid, 9 or 10, and I worked with the brother of my mom because I didn’t come from a very wealthy family.

And when they’d leave the house, would they say, Riccardo, what do you think? I’ve always consulted on how my sisters dress, yeah. I actually got into beauty and into creativity because I used to watch my sisters getting ready to go out and they were always very over the top. And I was interested in all of their metamorphoses, like putting makeup on, doing their hair, putting their clothes together. And it was interesting for me, the transformation.

And did you ever edit, or did you just let them be? [Laughs] You know, being a good Leo, I always give my opinion, and it wasn’t always like welcomed.

And now do they wear your clothes? They’re obsessed.

How old were you when you left the city you grew up in? I left Italy when I was 17 and I never went back as a part of a holiday or to visit my family. I went to England, stayed in England, and I graduated in England. And then after England, I went back for nine months, one year in Italy. I did my own collection, Riccardo Tisci, and then I was by Givenchy and since then, I’ve been 11 years in France.

When you went there, did you speak English? No. I went to England and didn’t speak English. And I went to England thinking just, I want to have a little bit of adventure in my life because I came from a poor family. And I never thought I would become a designer. I never thought I would become a successful designer. And it all happened in five years. Everything happened at once, and it’s been an amazing journey and dream.

Was it hard to live in Paris? It was hard because Paris is a beautiful city, and like an open air museum. But, at the same time, it is very different cultural lifestyle of my lifestyle. So I have to adapt a lot in the beginning, but now it’s all okay.

One of the things I love about you is that you always find a family. I believe in family. And I missed my family since I was 17 and I left. So in any place or any city where I am, I’m always trying to rebuild my family and build proper, real relationships with people. I don’t like superficiality. I build relationships to be pure, and to be honest, in bad and good weather.

Do you have regular kind of muses? Or do you get more inspiration from things that are happening in the world? I get influenced a lot by what happens around the world. I’m a very curious person. I pay attention to politics, to religion, to art, to fashion, and to music, to what’s happening in the clubs, in the streets with the younger generation. I’m always going to start with new things, and with new things there is emotion and how people transform themselves and why society transforms so fast. So that is my big inspiration. I’m really attracted to people who have strong opinions of things and have very strong self-confidence. That’s what inspires me the most.

Well, what I also love about you as a designer is you really like women. It’s not like you like only one kind of woman. You have really a love for women, and it’s very clear in the clothes. It’s very rare. You’d think it wouldn’t be rare, but it is rare. I love women because I be grew up with women. And I never met my father because he died when I was a child. And so, my daily life, my energy, my everything – I’ve been educated only by women. I had women around me – my mommy and my eight sisters. So I’m inspired by that because because I know we all come from women. I’m very feminist in that way. I’m get very upset when all I see is the abuse of women or no respect of women.

So you’re in the Royals issue. Who, to you, in fashion is a royal? Gianni Versace because he’s always been the flag of Italy, and he was such a creative and such a daring person, always taking risks, always exploring new worlds, always bringing everybody together, which is something that’s a part of my personality as well. As an Italian, he represented the real Italy, women who are very strong, who have strong opinions on art, and music, and politics. He was very creative and a real genius. So, I was a child when Versace was big and I always remembered it. That’s what make me dream to become a designer.

The 2016 Royals: Priyanka Chopra, Cindy Crawford, Chris Evans, Kanye West and More

Priyanka Chopra wears Burberry XO Barneys New York dress. Beauty: Burberry.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus wears Carolina Herrera dress; Pomellato earrings. Beauty: Nars.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Francelle. Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Irina Shayk wears Prada dress, harness, corset, belt, charm, agenda, tights, and shoes; Bulgari ring. Beauty: L’Oréal Paris.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Halle Berry wears Versace gown; Pasquale Bruni ring. Beauty: Revlon.

Hair by Castillo; by Aaron de Mey
 at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY; Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Elle Fanning wears Gucci gown; Bulgari earrings; Dior Fine Jewelry rings; Marc Jacobs shoes. Beauty: Gucci.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel;Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Jodie Foster wears Giorgio Armani dress; Harry Winston earrings; Mish New York cuff. Beauty: Giorgio Armani.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Kanye West wears Yeezy Season 3 hoodie and pants. Grooming: Clinique.

Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps. Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Chris Evans wears Berluti tuxedo; Simon Miller shirt; Tiffany & Co. watch. Grooming: Giorgio Armani.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Kit Harington wears Hermès suit; Vince hoodie; Boss T-shirt. Grooming: Aramis.

Grooming for Harington by Johnny Hernandez at Fierro Agency. Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Ethan Hawke wears Louis Vuitton coat; Simon Miller T-shirt; AMI Alexandre Mattiussi trousers; Church’s shoes. Grooming: Dior Homme.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

Rami Malek wears No. 21 sweater; Prada pants, socks, and shoes. Grooming: Chanel.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY. Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful.

New Royalty: Television “When I was a teenager, I was a tomboy and had scars on my legs. But then I taught myself to take care of my body and my hair. It takes time, but if I can do it, anybody can. Today, my legs sell 12 or 15 products in my part of the world.”

Alexander McQueen jacket and dress; La Perla bra and shorts; Harry Winston ring.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Television “I don’t approach my work from a gender point of view. If people are talented, be they men or women or transgender, I’m into it. I want to play ball, and I want to play hard. And if you can do that with me, then we’re going to get along great.”

Oscar de la Renta dress; La Perla bra.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Francelle; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Superhero “In the 6th grade, I played the supporting lead in a play called “Crazy Camp.” I ended up dating one of the more popular girls as a result. The second the play was over, she dumped me. So, at a young age, I learned the power of getting a good role.”

Melet Mercantile T-shirt; Rag & Bone Standard Issue jeans.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Superhero “In Doctor Strange, I play Baron Karl Mordo, the first person to introduce Dr. Stephen Strange into a mystical, weird, and wonderful world. Mordo can transport between dimensions, and I studied quantum physics to understand the science behind his powers. Personally, I would rather be able to make myself invisible.”

Burberry jacket and trousers; Prada sweater.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Model “I hadn’t planned to be a model, but I went to beauty school and was discovered there. My big break was in 2007: the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Being Russian, I never imagined my career would involve swimsuits—I was raised with snow, and warm coats sounded a bit better to me. A swimsuit model has to stay in shape all the time. I love food, even though people think models don’t eat.”

Miu Miu dress, stole, and stockings; ring from Stephen Russell, New York.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Model “I grew up in a small town in Illinois, and I didn’t even know that modeling was a real job. My dad thought that ‘model’ was a nice word for prostitute. I did, however, have Calvin Klein jeans, and I knew about Brooke Shields and Seventeen magazine. That was my introduction to fashion.”

Stella McCartney dress; Curriculum Vitae bra.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Fashion “I have eight older sisters, so I started thinking about fashion when I was very young. I would customize clothes on my best girlfriend—­putting together a man’s shirt with a Victorian dress. And, being a classic Leo, I would always give my opinion to my sisters. I would watch them put on makeup, and I’d tell them what I thought, which wasn’t always welcome. Of course, now they all wear my clothes. They are obsessed.”

Tisci’s own Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci sweater.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Fashion “I didn’t mind putting my name on underwear. Jockey had its name on the waistband, so why shouldn’t I? My daughter, Marci, said in an interview that it was strange to have sex with men who had my name on their underwear. I told her, ‘That’s not funny.’ But it is funny—just not when it’s your daughter.”

Klein’s own clothing.

Hair by Thom Priano for R+Co at Garren New York; Makeup by Régine Thorre; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Superhero “The costume for Supergirl is cute, but it’s difficult to put on. It’s not a one-person job: There’s a bodice on top of which muscles are added, because ain’t no way that I am that muscular. And the cape is its own special thing. The costume lives under lock and key. If I wanted to wear it for Halloween, I’d have to stage a mission to steal it.”

Valentino dress; Tiffany & Co. necklace.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Superhero “I loved being Catwoman. I was a gymnast growing up, so I got to use all of those skills for the role. I hated cats going into it, but I learned about the psychology of them—and I came out of that movie a die-hard cat lover.”

Alexandre Vauthier dress.

Hair by Castillo; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicures by Honey at Exposure NY.

Set design by Philipp Haemmerle.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Television “On Game of Thrones, there were a couple of weeks when it looked like I was going to die. I thought, Maybe this is it. Then I found out I wasn’t going to die, so I had to keep this massive secret from everybody. I did tell my parents, though: ‘All right, Mom and Dad, you’re in on this now.’ They then went about lying to everyone. They relished it, I think. They’re quite dramatic, my parents.”

Derek Rose pajama set.

Grooming by Johnny Hernandez at Fierro Agency; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Television “I am a troublemaker, for sure. I have a pretty cool scene coming up in Mr. Robot, and I’ve already talked to my makeup artist about bringing something that is not going to go over too well with the costume department: blood. A lot of blood. Our costumes are one-of-a-kind, so I could get into a lot of trouble. But you’ve got to take some risks in life.”

Prada pants, socks, and shoes.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Renaissance Woman “My parents always encouraged us to do what we believed in. There’s a funny interview from when I was 5 or 6 years old: My dad is interviewing me, and my mom walks in and says, ‘You are Wonder Woman.’ That’s one of my most vivid childhood memories.”

Chanel Haute Couture dress; Cartier bracelet; Chanel flats.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Renaissance Woman “I don’t think I’m particularly brave. I’m confident in my opinions about making films, but there are tons of things that I’m really just a child about. For instance, I have a fear of picking up the phone and asking someone, ‘Would you like to have lunch with me?’ Little things that other people learned in Adolescence 101 have always scared me.”

Saint Laurent jacket and trousers; Boss turtleneck; (right hand) Repossi ring.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Independent Film “I was 10 years old, going to a small public school in Palestine, Texas, when casting directors came through and asked kids to audition for a movie. The film was The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick. They saw around 10,000 kids, and I ended up getting the role. I’m 19 now, and I have been acting ever since.”

Prada jacket and pants.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel;Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Set design by Philipp Haemmerle; Lighting technician: Lars Beaulieu; digital technician: Johnny Vicari; photography assistants: Felix Kim, Javier Villegas; fashion assistants: Ryann Foulke, Dena Giannini, Sam Walker, Anastasya Kolomytseva Anita Lau; hair assistants: Adlena Dignam, jennifer kim, dale delaporte; makeup assistants: Tayler Treadwell, Mariko Hirano, Robert Reyes, Takahiro Okada; set design assistants: Theo Volpatti, Ryan Stenger, Valentin Haemmerle, Matt Solis; special thanks to Highline Stages and Spring Studios, New York.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Independent Film “I did Born to Be Blue, the story of Chet Baker’s midlife crisis, because it was something I could relate to. I was 18 when Dead Poets Society came out, and that success didn’t leave me far to go. We all like to feel that we’re growing better and stronger and improving every year of our lives, but when you peak at a young age, you have a long way to fall.”

Jil Sander sweater; AMI Alexandre Mattiussi trousers.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Renaissance Man “To me, Will Ferrell is royalty. He is one of my personal gods. I would like Will Ferrell to play me in The Kanye West Story. Can you make that happen?”

Yeezy Season 3 sweatshirt; Hoorsenbuhs necklace.

Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps; Hair by Ibn Jasper at Frank Reps; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

New Royalty: Society “Growing up, we lived in the Waldorf Towers. My classmates used to call my sister, Paris, and me the Eloises of the Waldorf. If there were events in the ballroom, we were always sneaking in and spying on people. We did everything but order room service. Room service was off-limits.”

Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini cape and dress; Nili Lotan dress (underneath); Chopard earrings; Harry Winston necklace; Chanel Fine Jewelry rings; Wolford tights; Miu Miu pumps.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Fulvia Farolfi for Chanel; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful

Classic Royalty: Society “I have always loved fashion and was lucky enough to live through the era of great couture designers. In the early ’80s, Azzedine Alaïa took a piece of jersey and draped it on me. He then took chalk and marked out the dress on my body. When I received the finished dress, it was stitched where he had placed the chalk marks. It fit like a glove then. Now it fits more like Spanx.”

RR 331 by Ralph Rucci coat and top; earrings from Stephen Russell, New York; Munnu the Gem Palace bangles; Perrin Paris gloves.

Hair by James Pecis for Oribe Hair Care; Makeup by Aaron de Mey at Art Partner; Manicure by Honey at Exposure NY.

Photographs by Mario Sorrenti, Styled by Edward Enninful
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The 2016 Royals: Priyanka Chopra, Cindy Crawford, Chris Evans, Kanye West and More