Ever since it was announced a few years ago that high fashion's designer darling Riccardo Tisci would be collaborating with Nike on its iconic Air Force 1 silhouette, hype surrounding the release began to thrive almost instantly within the style and sneaker community. Who exactly is Riccardo Tisci and what makes his designs worthy of Nike? Today we’re going to answer that question.
In February 2017, Riccardo Tisci announced his amicable departure from Givenchy. During his time at house, Riccardo Tisci has resurrected the Parisian brand to its former profitable glory with dark, sensual and subversive collections. Impressively, Tisci has crafted distinct brand identities for all of Givenchy’s product categories across women’s and men’s ready-to-wear and haute couture. Tisci grew up in a tight-knit, single parent working class family in Italy. The designer describes his family life as hugely influential on him and remembers his childhood as one filled with love. Tisci left regular school aged 11 to enroll in art school in Milan. The designer recently told The Daily Telegraph, "I wanted to express myself and I couldn't really do it through words at that point. I was very, very shy, very scared of life. It sounds screwed up but I would get bored with the kids at school who were always playing Pac-Man; I preferred to be at home painting or learning how to garden from my mum." Tisci was selected for a scholarship by Central Saint Martins, from which he graduated in 1999. Tisci then held design positions at Puma, Antonio Berardi and with Ruffo Research, before embarking on his own brand in 2004. As a result of his bold, powerfully feminine designs, Tisci was announced as the creative director of Givenchy’s womenswear and haute couture lines in 2005. The designer told The New York Times, “Yes, I do have that impression. When I arrived at Givenchy, I was a guy from nowhere. And Givenchy was kind of confused. Nobody knew what it meant anymore.”
Tisci’s designs found willing consumers immediately; the designer’s vision for Givenchy initially found traction with consumers rather than editors. In just two years Tisci had revitalised the house’s couture business. Tisci told The New York Times in 2007, "When I arrived we had five customers. Now we have 29.” Tisci chose to stop showing couture in 2012, taking the business behind the scenes in house once more. Back in May 2008 he was appointed chief designer of menswear and menswear accessories in addition to his womenswear role. His menswear collections have received rampant critical acclaim and caused the formation of tribe-like followers, many of whom, such as Kanye West, are very much in the public eye. Tisci’s marriage of streetwear influences, Parisian sensibilities and global motifs has made Givenchy’s printed sweatshirts a fashion staple, as well as broadening the brand’s appeal exponentially.
It’s not every day that high fashion and workout wear come together, but if there’s any duo that can pull off the partnership, it’s Riccardo Tisci and Nike. The designer pairs the beauty of his Givenchy work with the practicality of sportswear, ultimately creating an elevated collection of men’s and women’s athletic footwear and clothing. “It was interesting … a little bit of a difficult process because to make something that is very dynamic, to do sport, and to do activity, and make it strongly recognizable—a fashion statement—is not easy,” Tisci said. “But we achieved something that’s amazing. There’s a lot of sensuality.” For Riccardo Tisci, the collaboration with Nike has always been personal. When the collaboration was first announced Tisci opened up about how he has been obsessed with the Air Force One for over 15 years. Most collaborations take a year or so, but this one has been in the works for the better part of two decades. When describing his relationship with the shoe he said, “I've been wearing them for 15 years. It's always been the same. The white ones. When people take a picture of me I almost always have on the same thing. A black T-shirt, black trousers, and white Nike shoes,” he explains. The AF1 has been a part of his uniform for nearly two decades before Nike even picked up the phone.
When it came time to jump into the AF1 pool, it’s obvious that Tisci was going to start with the all-whites. They’re his own go to sneaker. His AF1 Mids are about as high as a standard High. His Highs are higher than any AF1 before, and the boots are extraordinary. At the same time, Tisci used premium supple leathers, the standard he’s accustomed to over at Givenchy. Then came the bells and whistles. Graphic lines skate up the tongue and around the heel tab using saturated colours signature to his street savvy style. There are a lot of visual and textural elements jammed in, and may have seemed strange to those unfamiliar with Tisci’s work and didn’t understand it right away. The immediate response was of small interest that eventually built into a powerhouse.
As we mentioned before, it’s not every day that high fashion and workout wear come together. Yet Riccardo Tisci and Nike have proven to be an unstoppable force that will continue to release premium silhouettes like the Nike Air Max 97 Mid, the Nike Dunk Lux Chukka and AF1 for many years to come.