Givenchy evokes dark futurism in first show from Matthew Williams
An imposing oval structure radiating a blinding white light greeted guests at the center of the Paris La Défense Arena, the immense stadium in western Paris that usually serves as the venue for Racing 92 rugby games and major music concerts from bands including The Rolling Stones. On this occasion, however, it was fashion house Givenchy's turn to play host, as it celebrated the first physical runway and the third ready-to-wear collection from creative director Matthew Williams. The brand bet big on the event, which took place on the night of Sunday, October 3, revealing its latest collection on an almost cosmic catwalk, positioned at the end of of a long corridor flanked by dozens of neatly lined-up black-clad men, who, immersed in the monumental darkness of the stadium, invited attendees into a show whose dystopic staging had echoes of the latest Netflix hit, Squid Game.
The American designer, who has also led his own brand, 1017 Alyx 9SM, since 2015, did what many had been expecting, offering up a dark collection with Gothic touches and the characteristic couture sparkle of the fashion house founded by Hubert de Givenchy in 1952, alongside a good dose of scene-stealing accessories. It was all adapted to the wardrobe of a modern and subversive customer, more au fait with electronic music festivals and the ostentation of rap icons than with the film premiere red carpets and royal weddings frequented by wearers of pieces made by Williams' predecessor, British designer Clare Waight Keller.
This change of tone could already be seen in his previous collections, where one could pick out the odd echo of the period when Riccardo Tisci led creative direction at the house, and was also reflected in the selection of VIPs occupying the front row at Williams' cosmic show: from a hooded Tyga and media favorite Offset, both escorted by hip-hop entourages, to futuristic Spanish DJ Sita Abellán, via French stars Camélia Jordana and Leïla Bekhti, and the UK's Brooklyn Beckham, accompanied by fiancée, actress Nicola Peltz. Not to mention the all-powerful editor-in-chief of Vogue, Anna Wintour, also keen to see the physical runway debut of the designer from Illinois.
Created specially for the occasion, the excellent soundtrack from Atlanta-born rapper Young Thug backed the eclectic 70-look show. A dozen black silhouettes opened proceedings, introducing elements that would be repeated throughout, including never-ending thigh-high boots with space-age soles, combined with embroidered shorts, fitted corsets or neoprene minidresses with peplums or structured frills. This cocktail of simplicity and contemporary practicality then gave way to a series of more classically inspired and impeccably elaborate tailored looks.
Men's coats in gray, white and beige featured details such as Prince of Wales check, contrasting black lapels or lateral closures finished with the house's new padlock. These were followed by tailored pieces with contemporary twists, including large sleeveless coats with structured shoulders, dark-toned overshirts, and jackets and waistcoats with multiple bulky pockets, matched up with caps and shorts worn over fitted pants. It's worth remembering that Williams, much like Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, belongs to the same artistic school as the multidisciplinary Kanye West.
"I wanted to take the tradition and history of Givenchy as a base while also really looking to the future," said the designer of his offering for the historic LVMH-owned brand for Spring/Summer 2022. This desire was reflected in the creative director's blending of radical, puritanical and at times extravagant elements, which created looks that were full of contrasting juxtapositions. A classic black bolero was paired with a large, rainbow-hued, bejeweled dress; conservative blazers with mohair jerseys; clean and sober overcoats with napa leather jackets featuring edgier, streetwear cuts; tulle dresses with clogs.
The dark color palette gradually opened to include more color, bringing in millennial tones of sky blue, light yellow, lilac and mint. This was in part due to a collaboration with New York-based artist Josh Smith, who complemented the house's own artisanal savoir-faire with disruptive prints and quirky accessories in the shape of plastic containers, clowns, Halloween pumpkins and distressed jeans. It's a creative partnership that evidently has great commercial potential, just like the collection's distinctive platform footwear, its metallic jewelry and its raffia and macramé bags.
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