Riccardo Tisci has been in the game for a while now. The Italian fashion virtuoso comes from an era of classic, formally trained designers, although his vision has always lent itself to modern, forward-thinking design and creative risk. As a result, Tisci has carved out a space in the industry that is more or less his own, creating ready-to-wear collections, haute couture, sportswear collabs, and garments for some of the world’s biggest celebrities, remaining a prominent and influential persona within the industry and pop culture in general.
When Highsnobiety spoke to Tisci in 2017, he said he was taking a break for a bit of self-care, and then planning to reinvent himself. Fast forward a few months, amid a swirl of rumors that pointed to Versace, the cat was finally out of the bag. In March 2018, it was announced that Riccardo Tisci would be appointed chief creative officer of Burberry, succeeding Christopher Bailey.
Tisci’s first runway show with Burberry will take place in September at London Fashion Week. Until then, here are a few essential things to know about Riccardo Tisci.
Tisci grew up in Taranto, Southern Italy in a very big family with very little money. Speaking to Highsnobiety last year, the designer told us about his upbringing and how it distanced him from his peers: “I was the only boy of eight sisters in a council flat, and I lost my father when I was very little. I had a fantastic relationship with my family but I had been thrown into work and business very young. At 10 years old I was already working because I had to pay for school.
“It was not bad or nasty work, you know, assisting workers with selling flowers, or I was trying to do things to help my mom. When you do that, you mature much faster because you’re working with people that are older than you. So I developed this disconnection with people of my own age because everybody at 10 years old would go to play, go traveling, go to see Disney movies. And I was going to school and then going to work.”
At 17, Tisci moved to London, enrolling at Central Saint Martins, which is where Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton, and Marc Jacobs also studied. In 2005, Tisci landed the job of creative director of Givenchy’s ready-to-wear and haute couture collections, and later, in 2008, he also took charge of its menswear and men’s accessories.
After taking over at Givenchy in 2005, Riccardo Tisci held the post for a staggering 12 years (in fashion terms, this is an eon). At the helm of the storied French fashion house, Tisci created a visual language that would be imitated endlessly throughout the ’00s and early ’10s.
Neo-romantic religious imagery took center stage (a nod to Tisci’s Catholic upbringing), as did a streetwear-style use of irreverent graphics and a penchant for rich, bucolic floral prints. One of his most iconic creations was the rottweiler print that debuted at the Givenchy FW11 menswear show, later worn by Kanye West and Rihanna, among others. The aggressive print — originally styled with leather high-tops and shorts as models walked under an archway of roses — encapsulated everything Tisci brought to Givenchy and menswear at large: athleticism, romance, and a touch of goth.
Riccardo Tisci has refuted claims that he alone merged sportswear with fashion, but he certainly made it more acceptable. “Sportswear has been in fashion since the ’80s. When I arrived in my career, everything was about luxury, glamor, money, this and that — and I brought sportswear back. I did not invent hot water,” Tisci told Highsnobiety. “It was the street. The reality, the real people.”
He collaborated with Nike in 2014 for a collection titled Nike x RT, and again in 2017 on the Nike x RT “Victorious Minotaurs” collection, which included apparel for a fictional basketball team. When the collection dropped, Tisci referred to basketball players as heroes.
Riccardo Tisci’s fans include Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kim Kardashian (for whom he designed the viral 2013 Met Gala floral dress), Nicki Minaj, and most prominently, Kanye West. Tisci designed West’s wedding suit, the leather kilt he wore on the Watch the Throne tour with JAY-Z, and the album’s artwork, which featured Tisci’s signature grandiose, golden aesthetic.
Christopher Bailey’s swan song at Burberry featured a throwback to bigger logos, “fake”-looking sweaters, and a new LGBT+-inspired rainbow nova check print. Now with Tisci at the helm, past form would point to an influx of florals, neo-religious prints, and jarring animal imagery from the British heritage label. But Riccardo Tisci is also a designer who likes to surprise. If we look at how Tisci altered the codes at Givenchy (a brand formerly noted for being the choice of Audrey Hepburn) from elegant, glamorous, and chic to disruptive, youthful, and covetable, we can assume he has big plans to revitalize Burberry.
The first looks at what to expect have come via Instagram, with Tisci sharing an edit from the SS19 pre-collection “B Classic,” featuring classic Burberry pieces styled with what appears to be a strap-fastened, gum-soled sneaker.
I wanted to celebrate the beauty, heritage and legacy that I discovered when I first arrived at Burberry. ‘B Classic' is an edit that I've curated to honour the icons of the House – pieces like the trench coat, the quilted jacket, the car coat, the kilt – which sits at the heart of the SS19 pre collection designed by the fantastic Burberry design team. @burberry #bclassic🇬🇧
Tisci has also unveiled a new logo and monogram design for the brand, created by legendary graphic designer Peter Saville. The interlocking “T” and “B,” in red and honey, reference Thomas Burberry, the founder of the house. Read more about the workflow and insane deadlines involved here.
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