We waited 50 minutes for Kanye West to take his seat at Givenchy, and a show that lasted approximately 15. Perhaps he lost his way; the Givenchy set was a labyrinthine maze of wooden corridors, each one screening off the next so that the seating felt like an underground carriage at rush-hour — standing-room for models only.
Thankfully the wait provided excellent review material; a first, second and third act before the grand finale. I was seated opposite Hollywood actor Bradley Cooper, US Vogue editor Anna Wintour and Wendi Deng, who had presumably chosen to divert her attention from the publicity surrounding her former husband’s weekend nuptials to the model Jerry Hall by watching lots of fashion shows. Wintour, Deng and Cooper were joined on their bench by Gabriel-Kane Day-Lewis, “a musician who does a bit of modelling to make money” (and the son of the Oscar-winning scenery eater Daniel and the French actress Isabelle Adjani), and Andrew Bolton, the new Curator in Charge at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and co-host of the Met Ball with Wintour in May.
They made a compelling portrait of the modern creative power player, though no pictures were in fact allowed. Cooper wasn’t doing press and a burly minder ushered away incoming lens interest with a well-placed glower. Unlike West, they were also very punctual: Wintour is an impeccably timely attendee at the shows, and very often the first to be seated.
They spoke about London theatre, from whence Cooper has lately finished a semi-acclaimed run in The Elephant Man. Wintour was especially enthusiastic about the majesty of Ralph Fiennes’ performance in The Master Builder and Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen at the Royal Court. They also discussed Nancy Reagan, whose death at 94 had just been reported, and how sad she must have been to see the quagmire of Republican debate. Wintour is already a fully subscribed supporter of Team Hillary, and has negotiated the season alongside several political fundraisers for the Democratic candidate.
I took no part in the discussion. Like a butler at a dinner party, I quietly pretended to be busy about my business (taking sneaky Instagram pictures) and making mental notes. Altogether the performance was riveting.
The clothes, when they finally appeared, were a little less so. Arguably, such an enormous build up could only be met with a tinge of disappointment. After last season’s triumphant love letter to New York, a lingerie-inspired collection staged against the sunset over the Hudson and co-created with his friend the artist Marina Abramović, Riccardo Tisci’s AW16 was more straightforward in its ambitions, though sartorially quite complex. The 51 looks interwove military tailoring, snake skins, leopard print and ancient Egyptian motifs in a melange of chiffon prints, bomber jackets and officer’s greatcoats in light black wool with crimson accents.
“It was a mix of psychedelic music and Egyptian,” explained the designer backstage, with uncustomary brevity. “Egypt because it was the beginning of everything. And fur, snake and leopard because I’m obsessed with animals. I used the military details for the gold and the decoration.”
The coats were certainly the strongest part of the collection, all hung under the watchful eye of Ra. Patchwork python bombers and admiral coats were svelte and purposeful, the best were layered with gentle quilted jackets that had arts & crafty prints. They were worn with flattering mannish black trousers and tight cropped wigs that covered the head like skull caps.
Backstage, Bradley Cooper shook Tisci’s hand in a manly display of fraternal appreciation. He thought it was “great”.