Riccardo Tisci on the Joys of Time Off — and How to Throw a Great Party

Riccardo Tisci
Credit...Molly SJ Lowe

Perched on the top rail of a church pew, Riccardo Tisci surveys his domain. The designer, who left Givenchy in January on friendly terms after a successful 12-year run at the house, is surrounded by row after row of wooden pews, which sit below carnivalesque luminaria lights — the kind you usually see in the street festivals in southern Italy.

This is all part of his transformation of the sprawling concrete expanse of Ex-Scalo Farini, a former train depot in northern Milan, into an interpretation of “The Divine Comedy” by Dante for a massive party on Friday night. In a move typical of his blend of religion and subversive hedonism, the inferno, purgatory and paradise will be the backdrops for the evening’s festivities.

Flanked by Emanuele Farneti, the new editor of Italian Vogue, Tisci is taking a break from his world-traveling sabbatical of many months to be the creative director of the event, which celebrates the magazine’s revamped September issue, dedicated to the theme of Italy. “Riccardo embodies the new spirit we’re celebrating — someone who is Italian but at the same time international and modern,” says Farneti of the surprising choice of the designer as party planner. “We’re part of the same young generation. At least in Italy we’re considered young.” (Both men were born in 1974.) “And there’s a lot of excitement for this event. So many people are going to come.” The two men simultaneously reach out to knock on the wood of the pews for a superstitious bit of good luck. Adds Tisci, an irrepressible optimist: “I think they’ll be talking about this party for years to come.” This interview has been edited and condensed.

The Inferno never struck me as a place I wanted to party. How did you pick this theme?

What Dante wrote is still relevant today. We’re living in purgatory, and you can see hell in the dark side that exists in all the evil out there. Me, I’m a good boy, and I believe in heaven. “La Divina Comedia” is one of the most beautiful things I ever read in my life, and I think this is a cool way to get younger people excited about it. The young generation thinks religion is boring. If we want more young people to be believers, we have to show them that you can celebrate, you can have fun, there can be cool music, and cool people can be associated with the religion. I’m Catholic, but I’m talking about any religion. It can be a party — there’s nothing wrong with that.

Do you have some party tips for hosts who might not have as many celebrity names on their guest list as you?

I like to bring everybody together. I’ve always tried to bring all kinds of people into my circle, because I came from poverty, and I was fortunate to find success and end up where I am. I have celebrity friends, but names don’t matter. What matters is that friends come together to celebrate. Add music and good drinks, and that’s all you need for a great party. Here we’re also decorating with church pews and these amazing lights that you usually only see in the streets in Italy. The street, religion — today everything goes together. A party should celebrate everything all at once. Our dress code is a bit shocking too: ’black or nude.’ We’ll see who comes nude. You have to think about making beautiful photos at a party too. We’re going to have a lot of elegantly dressed people amid all this modern decay of the train station. I think Instagram is going to break.

You left Italy as a teen 25 years ago but since you’ve left Givenchy, you’ve spent much of your sabbatical traveling in your homeland. How do you find the country now?

I’ve missed Italy, and it’s a great moment for the country — maybe not financially, but you see change, you see things happening. Everybody connects Italy with the idea of “old,” but this party celebrates the new energy happening here. There’s a Renaissance of designers, of filmmakers, of music and art now. I think I’m part of this new Italy. There was a period when Italians had to go abroad to become successful, but I think we’ve reached the point where Italians can stay and be successful in their own country.

So does that mean you’d like your next job to be in Italy?

I’m still focused on making my sabbatical last a bit longer. But I’m very open for everything. I could live anywhere. I love traveling the world, but I think this sabbatical will have to end soon, because people are starting to ask me when I could start work again. Everyone should take a sabbatical after working for so long. Now at my next job I’ll be able to see things in a new light and experiment with new ways of working with fashion.