look serif;”>From tourist to Tisci, for sale Roisin Sweeney details her rare visit around LVHM’s houses


On the 15th and 16th of October, LVMH, one of the worlds biggest luxury goods companies, opened 25 of their houses to the public for a once off and completely exceptional opportunity to allow people to learn more about their heritage and the skills of their artisans. One of the most exciting of these open events was the tour of the Givenchy Haute Couture salons. The Salons are located on the floor above the Givenchy store on avenue George V, in Paris’ 8th arrondissement.

The open days went on from ten until seven, and I duly arrived at ten on the Saturday to the back of a four hour long queue. It was interesting to see from the variety of people in the queue how significant high fashion is to French culture. There were representatives from all age groups, from old ladies with their friends to families with young children and the anticipated stylish young people.

The visit began with handing in our cameras and phones to the impeccably groomed security, and entering the foyer, where white lilies and scented candles lent an ambiance to our introductory talk on the history of Givenchy couture. As we climbed the staircase I couldn’t shake the feeling that I would never be here again, and perhaps didn’t really deserve to be here in the first place.


The first salon we entered was the rotunda, where a short film on the making of Ricardo Tisci’s Autumn Winter 2011 couture collection was screened. It was a fascinating film but everyone had a little trouble concentrating as someone had left the door to the grand salon open a couple of inches, and white feathers and lace were peeking through. We entered the grand salon, where Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Elizabeth Taylor had sat with Hubert de Givenchy to discuss the lines and colours of their handmade gowns. The room was pure white, full of light with dark wooden floors. The only adornments, every piece from the A/W couture collection, presented to us on mannequins strung from the ceiling.


The collection was undertaken almost entirely in white, and the head of the couture salon took us through each gown one by one, unfortunately I became overwhelmed and seemed to lose my entire knowledge of French, so I’m not entirely sure what was said. Thankfully the pieces spoke for themselves, the effects were magical. Silk tulle was the material of choice for the pieces. One gown, the most time-consuming of the collection, was created from thousands of hand cut, and of course hand sewn, silk tulle paillettes. In some sections they were layered so deep the effect became three dimensional.


Several of the dresses had been decorated with tiger’s eye pearls, pearls containing miniscule light reflecting crystals. Balls of raw cashmere created a harsh contrast to these flawless, illuminated stones. Pony skin was used in narrow strips to outline sections of the pieces, Chantilly and macramé lace were also used in abundance. In the film we had seen miniscule gold beads being hand strung, individually, onto gold thread. The result was a miraculous gown with a sheer top, and almost entirely beaded skirt, which took hundreds of hours to create.

The group had to be snapped at by the otherwise lovely guide in order to move along to the next room, where we saw four Givenchy artisans who had been taken out of their usual workshops for the day, cutting patterns and lace, sewing tulle, and hand beading each individual pearl. It was an incredible experience, after which I entirely condone becoming a millionaire and wearing as much couture as possible.