When Ricardo Tisci turned a rottweiler into a style muse, I have to admit that I was impressed. The gates of commerce heaven opened for the brand – Givenchy – whose simple black cotton t-shirt sold out on every sales floor it hit. And though Tisci’s incipient intention may not have been what resonated with his army of devout consumers (a classic case of Blinded by The Label, perhaps), that seems irrelevant in hindsight.
This season his ubiquitous black t-shirt is no longer festooned by the K9 of 2011. In fact, from the front you’d never even know that it was Givenchy, and if from behind that merit still held true I’d have to surrender envied fascination once again. The man puts his label in a Fruit of The Loom t-shirt, slaps a $300 price tag on it and just like that, it’s gone? That isn’t quite the case here, though. While the front maintains an unstained canvas, the rear reveals a team jersey-inspired style, with a twist: “17″ sits just below the word “pervert.”
And for exactly $325 (though not at Barneys, where it is already sold out), you, too, can declare yourself a pervert. Stamped, of course, with the approval of Givenchy.
As my friend Sophie put it, “honestly? I’d rather be friends with an actual pervert than one who would spend $300 to call himself one.” It’s hard to overlook that the number “17″ represents the final year of a minor’s legally defined childhood, and the obvious controversy here (or lack thereof; why has no one else commented on this?) is that in creating this t-shirt - providing the opportunity for self-expression by way of fashion – Givenchy makes what the dictionary calls “a lack of morality” quite popular. Who would willfully sign up for that? Obviously a lot of someones, as the shirt has already sold out on Barneys.com and likely faces a similar fiscally pleasing fate at Luisa Via Roma.
According to Bryan Boy, who has already modeled the Pervert tee on his fashion blog, our take on “pervert” may simply be a speech discrepancy. “What I love about the t-shirt is that it encapsulates a lot of what I’m feeling right now. It’s obscene in many ways. Only someone fashionably-per
If we think about the word as a verb, perversion can mean corruption in any capacity, rooted in sexuality or not. And to be fair, our assumptions may likely pervert the designer’s actual motive in creating the shirt. In a 2011 interview by Donatella Versace, Tisci explains, “I hate vulgarity. I hate vulgarity even though it attracts me—and it attracts me very much. I love all that is transgressive or vulgar.” Taking the designer’s mindset into account, it’s easy to imagine that for Tisci, there’s more to the shirt than simply a commerce-friendly wink.
To that point, if held up as a piece of modern art, would the sentiment receive acclaim instead of admonishment? And if that’s the case, what exactly is our problem with a person using this t-shirt as a self-expressive vessel? Maybe it just seems vile to us in a way that is tantamount to putting a “barely legal” t-shirt on an infant.
But who are we to begrudge something that allows self-expression and starts a dialogue, especially as champions of doing just that? Regardless of our gut reaction, we have to appreciate that a simple black t-shirt can spur the conversation.
By Leandra Medine and Kate Barnett