Which Way To Better?

With Carine Roitfeld in the game, is Givenchy scoring a win?

So Givenchy is getting reinforcement. After a few seasons (since spring/summer 2021, to be precise) of unconvincing output, Matthew Williams has enlisted the help of Carine Roitfeld, the ex-French Vogue editor, present EIC of CR Fashion Book, one-time accomplice of Tom Ford’s “heroin chic” for Gucci, and now, former stylist at Max Mara (as the rumour circulating in 2010 went, she borrowed a Balenciaga sample and loaned it to the Italian brand she consults for, which led to Balenciaga reportedly banning her). Ms Roitfeld is also the arbiter of ‘French chic’, an American obsession, known over there as ‘French girl style’. So her input is invaluable in assisting Mr Williams get the Givenchy look—which has been elusive, and more so under his watch—right. This is le chic Français for a brand that has lost its way, but all roads lead to America, do they not?

If you have been following Ms Roitfeld’s much-covered career (including her collab with Uniqlo), you might know she is partial to a lean, sexy-in-spades silhouette, build around a suit jacket (not too fitted, not to oversized) and slim skirt (preferably black), and finished with stilettos to give her vertical advantage. With Givenchy, she gives hints of what is identified as her style, yet concurrently submits to Mr William’s insistence on a street aspect to the collection, but now decidedly more svelte, and with midriffs still exposed. Ms Roitfeld’s love of lingerie (with its racy connotation) is there too, but now they are bra tops paired with unsightly, ripped, cut-off-at-knee, multi-pocketed biker jeans (l’élégance means there is a version in tweed). And papery slip dresses with raw edges that look like they won’t survive even the first wash.

Supposing, as many did, that Givenchy suffered from an identity crisis before, it still appears unresolved. There is a conscious tempering of Mr Williams’s initial streetwear-gone-luxe with sleeker dresses, and Ms Roitfeld’s well-loved slim skirts. But does Mr Williams really need the visual stimulus that Ms Roitfeld presumably could provide? And did Los Angeles native really benefit from it when he seems to be still tied to LA? Some pieces are puzzling and the antithesis of ‘French girl style’, such as the frightening oversized denim trucker and cargo shorts (they are cargo jeans too). Even Bella Hadid can’t save the denim bra-top and the dirty-looking jean-skirt. Some are sad clichés, such as the boucle skirt-suit or jacket with, gasp, bleached denim cargo jeans and the Chanel-esque round-neck jacket and straight-cut jeans. Others are just duds—military-style cropped hoodie and distressed fatigues or the PT singlet and khaki skirt.

Mr Williams seems to draw inspiration from the red light districts of LA too. There are cropped tops with a broad, flounced border (one comes with a limp ruff!), slip-dresses with half-assed half-drape along the neckline and one-shoulder gowns to show off the bland brassiere on the uncovered side. There is, surprisingly, a visible lack of the hardware that Mr Williams is known for, except the odd buckle that appears on bra cups and a strange two-buckle belt that goes on the waist of a ruched ebony dress. For someone who loves black, there is a curious green in a colour story that is generally muted. It led us to wonder if it’s the same shade at Fendi last month, even if a tad toned down in intensity? Seriously, is the maddening mash-up just Matthew Williams playing irrepressible DJ?

Screen shot (top): Givenchy/YouTube. Photos: gorunway.com