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…