Givenchy’s new night visions

Sculptural and suavely grown-up, the haute couture debut of Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy on Tuesday night had a darkly romantic flourish, which seemed somehow very right for this storied house.

Givenchy - Spring-Summer2018 - Haute Couture - Paris - PixelFormula

Staged with great style inside the massive National Archives deep in the Marais, models didn’t so much walk as glide across the parquet of these massive rooms. Arc lights projecting in from the courtyard bathed the rooms in huge slits of gold that illuminated a collection entitled “Night Visions.”
Waight Keller concentrated her attention on a refined silhouette, immediately setting the stage with devilishly well-cut jackets with peplums made in crisp Japanese wools shown with flared palazzo pants or skirts in whispers of lace.    
The British couturier also played artfully with novel mixes of materials: lace, feathers and metallics – with a beautiful silver evening dress topped by a coat trimmed in feathers; or a stand-out passage, a dress made of cascading layers of crinkly chiffon like a vertical pantone chart.
Waight Keller has clearly been studying the archives of Hubert de Givenchy – the 90-year-old founder – and she wove in sculptural silhouettes and shapes from various different eras.
“It’s been great to working with a whole new vocabulary of materials, textures and intricate embroideries. Literally hand dyeing and printing so paint is absorbed in such a different way - far from ready-to-wear. That’s the beauty of couture,” said the 47-year-old Waight Keller.

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Givenchy - Spring-Summer2018 - Haute Couture - Paris - © PixelFormula

Largely made in black and white – just like the program note and the unusual invitation, a hardback book made in black pages with the guests' names written in gold.
Also notable were a duchess satin white gown with moons on the back; a rather divine bare shouldered white faille gown and a pink satin dress in cantilevers of fabrics.
All told, a polished performance, albeit perhaps a tad too reverent a vision of Givenchy, and indeed couture. Just as her ready-to-wear debut in September very much suggested a designer still trying to get her head around the Givenchy DNA, this show came across as a designer still grappling with what exactly couture means, or should stand for.
Asked whether, after a half decade designing insouciant ready-to-wear at Chloé, she found the challenge of couture daunting, Waight Keller replied: “At the beginning it was overwhelming the amount of choice. Endless.  You don’t normally get to try sculptural forms in ready-to-wear, do you? But in the end I loved embracing it.”


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