So concludes another chapter in the history of the House of Givenchy.
The French fashion brand on Tuesday unveiled its pre-fall collection for women and men, the last designed by Matthew M. Williams, officially marking the end of his three-year tenure. It neatly summarized his signature blend of sharp tailoring, sleek eveningwear and sporty casuals, while reflecting Williams’ recent swing toward dressier women’s styles.
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The U.S. designer was seen as an outlier among the creative directors who have succeeded founder Hubert de Givenchy, being the first without a classical training in fashion design, according to “Givenchy Catwalk, The Complete Collections,” a new book that provides an overview of the label’s collections from 1952 to 2023.
But it turns out Williams, who started out creating costumes for Lady Gaga, had more in common with Givenchy than meets the eye. When the couturier made his debut in 1952, he was dubbed the “enfant terrible of fashion” for his groundbreaking mix of separates that channeled the ease of ready-to-wear, with items like his full-sleeved Bettina blouse.
Williams likewise emphasized the notion of comfort, in tune with the streetwear leanings of today’s luxury consumer, yet always included subtle references to house codes. In particular, he adopted Givenchy’s technique of playing with volume in the back, this season with a graphically scooped LBD.
Outerwear came roomy, in the form of a retro-style cotton cocoon coat, or strictly tailored, like the slim belted navy car coat worn over a black polka-dot slipdress trimmed with cobwebby lace. Jackets ran the gamut from a masculine style with a plunging lapel to a shorter hourglass version with jutting shoulder pads that evoked ‘80s power dressing at its finest.
But these career girls have traded pencil skirts for minis — after all, Kylie Jenner and Hailey Bieber are the ones making the cover of Forbes these days. Short skirts were paired with everything from a cream tweed blouson with shiny 4G buttons to a minimalist orange suit jacket that fastened with a single hook.
Accessories included variations on the Voyou bag, including evening versions in croc-embossed leather and tortoiseshell, and an evolution of his successful Shark Lock boot, updated with the Voyou’s oversize buckles.
On the men’s side, Williams kept things streamlined with loose-fitting suits, some with matching high-buttoned waistcoats, and crisp workwear separates that mostly eschewed adornment, except for the 3D black floral embroidery on a gauzy black hooded anorak.
With a sleek white tuxedo, he demonstrated why he’s a go-to red carpet designer for celebrities including Jared Leto and Robert Downey Jr., who both wore Givenchy to the Academy Museum Gala in Los Angeles on Sunday. Known for his focus on fabrication and finishing, he treated wool suiting fabric with resin to make it wind- and waterproof.
Footwear also had an outdoor sensibility. Williams, who’s rarely met a chunky shoe he didn’t like, partnered with Portland-based brand Bogs on two styles made of vulcanized rubber layered over a technical neoprene sock liner: a cropped Chelsea boot and a laced hiking shoe.
No doubt the new Givenchy encyclopedia will prove a handy primer for whoever succeeds Williams. Whether they manage to parlay that heritage into commercial success for the house, which has lagged the explosive growth seen at some fellow LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton brands, is another question.
Launch Gallery: Givenchy Pre-Fall 2024
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