Singapore is Givenchy's best market in South-east Asia, says brand's CEO

Givenchy's CEO Philippe Fortunato (top), creative director Riccardo Tisci (above) and an outfit from its spring/summer 2016 collection (left). Givenchy's autumn/winter 2015 campaign features competitor Donatella Versace (above).
Givenchy's CEO Philippe Fortunato, creative director Riccardo Tisci (above) and an outfit from its spring/summer 2016 collection.PHOTOS: GIVENCHY, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Givenchy's CEO Philippe Fortunato (top), creative director Riccardo Tisci (above) and an outfit from its spring/summer 2016 collection (left). Givenchy's autumn/winter 2015 campaign features competitor Donatella Versace (above).
Givenchy's CEO Philippe Fortunato (above), creative director Riccardo Tisci and an outfit from its spring/summer 2016 collection.

CEO Phillipe Fortunato also talks about his relationship with designer Riccardo Tisci

Unveiled in June, French fashion label Givenchy's autumn/winter 2015 campaign features an unlikely face: Donatella Versace, chief designer of Italian fashion house Versace.

Such a collaboration - in which a label gets a competitor's designer to front its own campaigns - is almost unheard of in the world of high fashion.

But when Givenchy's creative director Riccardo Tisci first proposed the unusual idea to Mr Philippe Fortunato, chief executive officer of the house, his boss did not need much convincing.

Mr Fortunato, who has been with the French luxury house for 11/2 years, recalls: "My first thought was, boy, this guy is good.


Givenchy’s CEO Philippe Fortunato, creative director Riccardo Tisci and an outfit from its spring/summer 2016 collection (above).

"The idea is unique because a designer is posing for another label's campaign, but that is only one way to look at it. What Riccardo is celebrating is not Donatella Versace the designer, but the woman.

"When her brother Gianni was killed in Miami, she revived the business and took it to another level even when she was not meant to do it.

"Riccardo wanted to celebrate the resilience, courage and entrepreneurship of one of his friends. And he designs Givenchy for people with confident and strong characters."

Tisci, who marks his 10th year with Givenchy this year, is very much credited with the success of the brand today. His fashion aesthetic - embellished gothic- romantic pieces with peek-a-boo lace and a twist of hard-edged street style - has become a trademark look. So are his bold graphic tees and sweatshirts.

In fact, Mr Fortunato describes Tisci as "almost like an incarnation of Hubert Givenchy, but in a modern way".

"We've had five talented designers in this house, which includes John Galliano and Alexander McQueen, but the two fundamental pillars are Givenchy and Tisci," says the 50-year-old, who was in Singapore last week on a market visit.

Givenchy, now 88, started the house in 1952 with his haute couture pieces. He left the label in 1995. Galliano was with the brand briefly in 1996, while the late McQueen helmed its creative direction from 1996 to 2001.

"Riccardo is doing a very interesting thing that few people do.


Givenchy’s autumn/winter 2015 campaign features competitor Donatella Versace (above).

"He has created this link between haute couture and urban-inspired designs. When he makes a sophisticated T-shirt embellished with complex embroidery, pearls and lace, he is applying his couture skills to something casual. At the same time, there are very strong street inspirations in his couture designs," Mr Fortunato says.

He adds that in the past five years, Tisci has come into his own as a designer. "Today, he has found the right balance between fashion-forward pieces and a more balanced commercial collection that is also relevant and easier to understand. There's also a better consistency across all the product categories and between the men's and women's collections."

Mr Fortunato declined to reveal sales figures, but says the brand has been enjoying a double-digit year-on-year percentage growth in global sales for the past three years.

He says that out of the more than 20 markets the brand is in, its biggest are the United States and China.

In America, Tisci's close relationship with US-based celebrities and personalities "has pushed the brand to another level of visibility", adds Mr Fortunato.

On his Instagram account - @riccardotisci17 has a million followers - it is evident that the designer counts A-listers such as music mogul Jay-Z, actresses Julianne Moore and Julia Roberts as well as television celebrity Kim Kardashian as good friends.

"Hollywood, the music industry, sports celebrities and influencers from different walks of life are all very connected with him. So the American market has responded very well to that," says Mr Fortunato.

Mr Fortunato, who was the president of Louis Vuitton China before joining Givenchy, says the brand plans to open more standalone stores in Australia because that is where its Chinese clientele is flocking to.

In South-east Asia, Singapore is the brand's top performer. In August, Givenchy doubled its retail floor space in Paragon to 3,100 sq ft. Its other boutique at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, which opened last year, stands at 2,210 sq ft.

But is Mr Fortunato worried about Tisci leaving the brand, given how high-profile designers such as Alber Elbaz of Lanvin and Raf Simons of Dior recently left their respective brands?

He says: "I'm not concerned. He has been with the house for 10 years and he lives through this house so personally.

"The way Riccardo is projecting himself into the future and the way he talks about the brand make me convinced of the amazing fit between him and the brand."

He adds that Tisci is given plenty of freedom to do what he wants.

"When designers leave a house, it raises important questions. How much pressure did they have to go through? How much freedom were they given?

"That's why I leave Riccardo a lot of space to travel, re-energise himself and get his inspiration. That drives the team crazy sometimes because we have a lot of work to do.

"But if you over-pressure designers, they can't create in a way that is necessary. They are not soccer players with a short working lifespan."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 10, 2015, with the headline 'Designed for success'. Print Edition | Subscribe