Taking as many chances with his forward-thinking designs as he does his casting decisions, Riccardo Tisci, Givenchy's fearless Creative Director, recently declared that hiring black models in fashion shows "shouldn't be a big deal" — but rather a normal occurrence.
Speaking with Style.com about the swarm of glamorous and strong female icons that comprise the designer's veritable "girl gang" — from Beyoncé to modern artist, Marina Abramović — Tisci explained,
"I opened my second couture show with nine black girls; some of them I’d discovered, some of them were established like Naomi [Campbell] or Liya Kebede. I did it in a very naive way and, in retrospect, a very honest way. I remember all the magazines talking about the casting, and that surprised me. People make such a big deal about using black girls in your casts, but it shouldn’t be a big deal—it should be normal."
Alone, Tisci's no-brainer approach to casting helped launch the career of supermodel Joan Smalls, whom he plucked from obscurity and offered an exclusive contract to walk in Givenchy's Spring 2010 couture show, setting off her meteoric rise in fashion and to the top of Forbes' lists.
He went on to say: "I think we’re all the same, and beauty is something that doesn’t have culture, religion, or color. It doesn’t matter what [your cast's] race is, what their gender or sexuality is, you should represent beauty—beauty is beauty."
Tisci's unfettered philosophy on beauty and race has him working with Chanel Iman, Grace Bol, famed Indian model Lakshmi Melon, trans model Lea T; he also featured singer Erykah Badu in the label's Spring 2014 campaign. This while designing for Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian, women whose physiques don't necessarily fit the stick-thin de rigueur of fashion.
Even finding it difficult to source male models who weren't "skinny, white, [and] pale skin" to wear his luxe sportswear-inspired styles for his first menswear collection, Tisci told his casting director, "'Listen, I need to go to the street. I need to find boys and teach them to walk.'…Basically 90 percent of the show were street boys.”
Tisci's casting decisions may have caused a stir within the industry, but they certainly highlight a diversity problem Balmain's Creative Director, Olivier Rousteing was equally vocal about just last week in his Out Magazine cover interview.
While fashion certainly has a long way to go on this subject, it's uplifting to know figures of clout are using their power to actively work against narrow, antediluvian ideas of beauty.
Marjon Carlos is a style and culture writer for Fusion who boasts a strong turtleneck game and opinions on the subjects of fashion, gender, race, pop culture, and men's footwear.