Virtuoso embroidery concealed within a sleeve, beneath a cape or slit skirt: Givenchy yesterday unveiled an haute couture line fed by gypsy culture and brimming with a dark, secretive sensuality.
To craft his 10 floor-length silhouettes of plaited leather, bejewelled fur and beaded silk, the house's Italian designer Riccardo Tisci took his cue from gypsy folklore, from Russia to moorish North Africa.
For the fifth season in a row, Tisci eschewed a runway show, letting press and public inspect the autumn-winter couture line up close in a hotel on the Place Vendome, the epicentre of the Paris luxury trade.
First, the leather room with a black dress of fine leather threads, moulded to the body for the bustier, and draped curtain-like to the floor from the waist and shoulders -- beneath epaulettes and a belt of dense, curlicued patterns.
Opposite, a gown of tan leather, its fine threads braided in a criss-cross for the round-necked bustier and in curved, knotted patterns at the waist, above a smooth skirt of velvety calfskin.
Both gowns -- 300 to 500 hours in the making -- are worn with thigh-high boots, plaited from leather threads in the second case, and meant to be glimpsed through slits in the skirt.
Givenchy's designer threw in elements from the 1960s, like the oversized mask-like gold-rimmed shades that finished off several of his gypsy queen looks.
Second came the fur room: with long capes of laser-cut mink adorned with red lacquered gold leaf or red leather-coated crystals.
Summing up the spirit of the line, a black gown embroidered head to toe with tiny red beads formed a tasselled skirt masking the treasure beneath: a pair of jewel-incrusted black boots-cum-sarouel pants.
Likewise, in the third room entitled beige/pure, a wool dress with a fur stole for a bustier had rich leather embroidery concealed under its sleeves and continuing in a wide panel down the back of the skirt.
Or a light gown whose halter neck of black twisted silk flowed down on the bust and behind the arms into a cape, embroidered inside with chocolate motifs glimpsed tantalisingly as the model moved.
Some things are just so fine, the clothes seem to suggest, they do not even need to be seen.