The day I got to Paris I ate some anchovies at an airport hotel* and got food poisoning. The next day I was scheduled to interview Riccardo Tisci while he finished up his collection at Givenchy, for this piece. By the time I got to the Givenchy building, my wrists were sweating and my head was a gray lollipop. I barfed in a garbage bag and went in. (Barfing in public is more humiliating in Paris than probably anywhere else on earth; the French do not look kindly upon public losses of composure.)
Tisci is famous for being squirrely with press, and ‘squirrely’ is a charitable word for it. In the workroom I was stationed in a nook around the corner from the designer, where he couldn’t see me (and where, it followed, I could not see him.) A press attendant pulled up a chair and observed my head while I listened for aural cues from Tisci. This went on for an hour or so before the press attendant rescheduled the interview for another day. I thanked him, threw up in the Givenchy bathroom, and left to get some water.
The closest water was in a tourist trap bar off the Champs-Élysées, where there was a self-playing Yamaha piano plugged into an outlet on the floor. The Yamaha was alternating jazzy versions of Let it Be and Hey Jude. Like all drinks in Europe, my water was served at exactly room temperature, and as I sipped it I had the sort of thoughts that occur whenever I get lonely on a work trip (“I wouldn’t be too upset if I ceased to exist right now” etc). Everyone at the bar was either on his phone, unwrapping a recently-purchased item, or snapping photos of the latter with the former.
I tried to think about Givenchy. This is a brand which initially grew famous for dressing Audrey Hepburn like a dinner napkin in tactful, sexless clothes, and for being collected by women like Princess Grace, and for outfitting all of the Kennedy women at JFK’s funeral. At this stage in the reporting I did not have strong opinions about it, nor about Tisci, whose clothes for men are 60% balls-out hideous and 30% game-changing and 10% quietly refined (the last 10% =suits marketed to Chinese businessmen).
That’s not a bad ratio for a designer, actually.
Over the next two weeks I spent more time with Tisci, grew to like him, grew to loathe his PR apparatus, watched the men’s show, and tried to sneak past countless security guards by making myself invisible, which is something my uncle claims he can do if he puts his mind to it. (Applications for the skill include: entering movie theaters without a ticket.) It didn’t work.
As with any work experience, there were lessons in this trip. Unlike most work experiences, none of them were particularly useful. I learned that Kanye West is difficult, and that coliform bacteria in hotels is concentrated on remote controls and bedside lamps. I learned that Tisci dislikes Lady Gaga. I learned not to eat anchovies at airport hotels.
The rest, I think, is in the piece.
*I know, I know.