Givenchy: An inclusive Golightly at Matthew M. Williams debut
Designing denim would not normally seem the most apt way to become the designer at one of France’s great couture houses, but it is the career path of Matthew M. Williams, an American in Paris who showed his debut collection for the house of Givenchy on Sunday.
Turns out it was perfectly good preparation for his new role, as Williams unveiled a perversely posh collection in unexpected materials with plenty of the classy glam and occasional downtown edge that characterized the style of Hubert de Givenchy.
Hence the presence of triple-baked pink denim jeans or crackled watermelon-hued jeans covered in machine washable resins. All set alongside some sleek, edgy tailoring.
"I want to make clothing I really love, respecting the codes of the house while also making something modern, exciting and inclusive," said Williams, who has been working at the house for the past 90 days.
Born in Chicago, but raised in California, Williams is the sixth successor to de Givenchy, since Hubert retired in 1995. Williams grabbed attention in Paris three years ago, with a bold futurist street collection for his own label, 1017 Alyx 9SM, staged inside an empty building site in eastern Paris.
The American clearly has a fertile imagination. He showed a stunning silvery white coat, cut not with a collar, but with huge lapels, and held together with an athletic strap at the collar bones, made in silk organza overlaid with laser-cut silk.
He’s also taking plenty of risqué risks – like sheer columns dusted with crystal and metal snowflakes; or mini ponchos in snakeskin for women. While his menswear had a natty yet industrial feel, featuring plenty of articulated big buckle belts.
Like Givenchy’s own legacy, Williams' vision of the house’s DNA is rather composite.
"It’s this idea of playing with extremes, Hubert would take the most opulent embroidered and rich fabric and then work with something that was quite inexpensive. He was also the first person in couture into upcycling – like taking fabric from Schiaparelli, where he worked, and making it work for him in another context," said Williams.
"Also, [Givenchy] has this amazing place in fashion where there is haute couture and then a deep connection with pop culture and music and streetwear. So it’s a really a unique house to play on both of these worlds," added the designer, a 34-year-old father of three, currently sporting cropped dyed-white hair.
The other big news was the brilliant footwear – notably a Trip-toe shoe, so called due to the triple toe straps, which was completed with some delightfully diabolical horns and steel heels, first used by Alexander McQueen, Hubert's second successor. Pointy pumps also came emblazoned with silver hooks, while the guys wore some punchy thick tire warrior sandals.
Williams chose not to shoot a video, but did display a snappy look book, shot by Heji Shin, the New York-based German-Korean photographer, which were displayed on huge light panels inside the house’s grand showroom at 2 Avenue Montaigne, with mega views out through sunny showers to the Eiffel Tower.
Shin’s images seem particularly adapted to Williams' take on Givenchy – graphic, self-assured, edgy and yet intimate.
His appointment at Givenchy is just the latest example of the ability of French luxury managers at LVMH to make courageous and risky choices when it comes to choosing designers for their stable of fashion houses.
Givenchy, let’s recall, will always be most famous for having dressed Audrey Hepburn when she played the part of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. At first sight, this collection seemed a long way from the iconic little black dress of that classic film. And yet, if that small-town southern gal who morphed into a party animal were alive today, we suspect she would love this collection.
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