Riccardo Tisci doesn’t so much test his boundaries at Givenchy couture as transmogrify them. His all-Asian couture class of last year was lauded as an industry breakthrough, and his premise this year goes further. For spring 2012, half the models were put into gowns simulating medieval chainmail, while the others were photographed in more modern silhouettes, with frothy draped sleeves, bare shoulders, and a classic New York palette of black and white.

It’s a sinister juxtaposition. A closer look at this group reveals that movement has been deliberately restricted around the wrists and legs. And this, coupled with Tisci’s famed preference for armor and reptilian scales, serves to reinforce the Givenchy clash of luxury and street, heritage and sport. An all-croc gown (reportedly the fruit of some 350 man-hours) and giant, dangly nose rings? We’d be darned if this doesn’t go down as one of his finest moments.

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