Far from a denial of what once was, Matthew Williams positions a Givenchy that is deliberately and deliciously devious in design.
It must be incredibly daunting to be handed a sum of inheritance, much more one that involves a house full of history. When left at the charge of so much responsibility, is the recourse to follow the dictates of its seamed codes or does one forge on ahead with a singular and focused identity? For Matthew Williams, the latest designer inducted into the hallowed halls of Givenchy, the resolute was to take the different chapters helmed by the many greats before him and fuse it with his unique point-of-view, all underscored by the Parisian elegance that Hubert de Givenchy has stood from the very beginning.
If there was anything certain for Matthew Williams as he was set to steer Givenchy from the point of pandemic forward, it was to hinge the cumulative experience with modernity and inclusivity. “You find the pieces of the puzzle for a collection, building it from symbols and signs, but never forgetting the reality of the person who will wear it and bring it to life,” says the newly minted creative director in a statement. “The women and men should be powerful and effortless, equal and joyful, a reflection of who they really are—only more so. It’s about finding the humanity in luxury.” Here, he orchestrates a symphony of identities: the sublime femininity of Hubert de Givenchy with the iconic keyhole back and looped draping, the tantalizing theatrics John Galliano, the macabre romance and adherence to assertive tailoring of Alexander McQueen, and the aggressive counterculture of Ricardo Tisci, as well as of nods to other guardians of the house such as Julien Macdonald and most recently, the couture-driven Clare Waight Keller. Despite obvious but polite influences in the overture of the spring/summer 2021 collection, Matthew Williams has locked in a firm command of his proposition at Givenchy.
“I’m having so much fun at Givenchy, working with the best people, making the pieces, creating this whole universe,” he shared in an interview with Vogue. Far from being just lip service typical thrown around in the excitement and adrenaline of a fresh start, the sense of joy is seen and felt throughout his introduction. It might sound a little ironic since his designs suggest a creative belligerence that consists of a conversation of hard-hitting hardware and nuanced fluidity in a post-apocalyptic dystopia akin to The Matrix. “It’s no secret that I’m really into hardware, and that’s what I lay the foundation with when I start a project,” Williams further detailed in the same interface. Instead of gendered notions of accessorizing, he forges the archaic dualities into the Lover’s Lock, the object of utility, commitment, and emotion that decorates the entire collection. Fastened to his duties as head of the house, Matthew Williams dusts the heritage of Givenchy with his expression that is all at once precise, playful, and pragmatic.
In 54-look genesis of evolution at Givenchy, Matthew Williams is authorizing his code of cool, with already boxy tailoring re-imagined as an exaggerated lesson in geometry, nuanced curtains of sinewy fabric juxtaposed with horned heels, overly square anoraks made even more curious with the Scooby Doo Tryp-toe shoe and stockings, extended cummerbunds in the new menswear definition of dressing down with tank tops, and finally, lengthy spliced leather dresses that allude to hints of 90s and 2000s sci-fi threaded throughout the offering. There are more pointed parameters set in the denouement: from sharp fortune cookie-like bags, horned hats, and rigid half-capes, making for a delightfully devious sway from its precedents.
By no means a denial of what once was, the Givenchy of Matthew Williams is a celebration of context and study of archetypes, edging to the forefront a casual sense of ease that aerates the lineage of the house with this breath of new life. At the hands of the creative director, this isn’t a shake-up of history, but rather, a deliberate introduction of what is inherently cool, making for a fine foundation to a future we can all tether ourselves to.