A Different Givenchy

But is Matthew Williams’s remake better?

Understandable it is that Matthew Williams took the reigns of Givenchy during tough times. But Mr Williams, is not the only designer dealing with difficult conditions, as we have been repeatedly reading. If there’s anything that could be more advantageous to him is that he’s working for an LVMH brand, with better resources than others not operating under such a massive luxury group. Yet, Mr Williams’s debut for Givenchy isn’t quite the attention-grabber that it was when John Galliano or Alexander McQueen or even Clare Waight Keller debuted with the house. Or has installations of not-quite-proven designers at major luxury brands really lost their spark and pull?

Givenchy has, for some time, lost the cool (is that even relevant now?) that Riccardo Tisci—presently at Burberry—brought to the label during his tenure (2005–2017). His successor Ms Waight Keller, despite some compelling output, did not quite restore the buzz Mr Tisci generated. We’re not sure if short-time royal Meghan Markle—and occasional Givenchy customer—brought something to the brand or took away from it. She’s now a considerable distance from the heart of French couture, in Santa Barbara, California, 160-odd miles away from Los Angeles, where Mr Williams is from (actually, he’s originally from Evanston, Illinois). Mr Williams is the first American designer to head Givenchy, and a part of the close circle of LA creatives that orbit around California’s leading design lights, Virgil Abloh and Kanye West, many with the ambition to design for European houses.

Before the showing of Mr Williams’s designs, it would not have been unreasonable to think that Givenchy might take in this collective American design aesthetic (also reflected in the art and DJing quartet Been Trill — made up of Mr Abloh, Heron Preston, Justin Saunders, and Mr Williams). The work would generally spring from street wear and would be Instagram-worthy, and it did, which informed everything in the collection, from the suits to the accessories. And befittingly, Givenchy now appears to reach out to the fashionistas of Calabasas, Kardashian land. It is getting back its K-clan.

The collection started with suits—somewhat interesting sleeve treatment and a semi-rigidity of line that was reminiscent of early Armani. And then it moved into the territory that would delight beauty moguls and the star models who can’t wait to shed catwalk clothes for those that will prompt the media to say how they “stun”: long halter tops with a hooker vibe and knotted at the waist so that the rest of the fabric falls to the floor between the legs (reminding us of the displays in the fabric shops of People’s Park), sheer tops to reveal bandeau-as-bra inside, and apron-dresses with all the hardware that would make a technician think of his unkept worktop. Avant-garde (in the euphemistic sense) came in the form of what might be a giant, upside-down container for French fries worn as a top.

And there’s the eveningwear: akin to what pop-starlets might wear to the Met Gala so as to secure a spot on the worst-dressed list: slinky numbers with massive cutout in the rear ( and if that wasn’t enough, the elbows as well) to better reveal waist-high thongs, as well as unimaginative diaphanous dresses to make a statement about panty choices. Street thinking and VMA red carpet reigned. Who cares about what Meghan Markle wishes to wear? All these clearly appeared as Givenchy for the hip-hop/rock crowd, for Mr Williams’s buddies and their wives, and for their coterie of luxury fashion-wearing friends for whom fashion has to look this naff. Is this what Matthew Williams meant when he said, on the Givenchy website, that “it’s about the humanity in luxury?”

Photos: Givenchy

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