The revolving carousel of designer hires and departures at major brands moves at warp speed – one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out. Just look at how many designers saw their debut this season, Olivier Lapidus at Lanvin, Natacha Ramsay-Levi at Chloé, and now – arguably the most anticipated – Clare Waight Keller at Givenchy. After Riccardo Tisci’s 12-year tenure, in which he revived, revitalized, and rock ‘n rolled the brand, it can be hard to imagine what Givenchy’s new identity might be.
To her credit, Waight Keller took a different tactic than her predecessor – who established his own imprint on Givenchy from day one – by digging deep into the archives to understand what founder Hubert de Givenchy had planted at its heart. Her archival reprisals underscored her incredible versatility as a designer. Gone was the feminine, breezy aesthetic of her Chloé years, and in its place was a dark, elegant, and ferocious new personality.
First, from the archives, Waight Keller investigated the shoulder, which was a point of strength in Hubert’s original designs. When the shoulder is exaggerated, it can tend to make women look bulky. Waight Keller dealt with this by creating her shoulders with sharp angles, tiered ruffles, and gentle puffs. The look was modern and sleek, allowing for a very flattering silhouette. A 1980s revival this was not.
As her attention to the shoulder might have hinted, the tailoring in this collection was impeccable. Silhouettes were flattering and cut close to the body, but where they were a little more blousy, they still kept their shape with nipped waists often accented with ruffles or tiny peplums. Somber black, a throwback to Waight Keller’s early years as a designer, helped keep the rock ‘n roll heart of this collection beating strong, but the palette also moved enticingly through romantic pairings of white and crimson, and a subtle variety of archival graphic prints in shades of deep navy, cornflower blue, and red.
It didn’t try too hard, it didn’t distract with too much styling, and it didn’t shout a message.
What I loved most about this collection was that it didn’t try too hard, it didn’t distract with too much styling, and it didn’t shout a message. The opposite of obvious is subtle, and that is what Waight Keller excelled at. Every look was instantly wearable, fresh, and lovely. It’s not often that you find a designer who can do commercial collections that are also highly fashion-forward. When the news of Waight Keller’s new position reached my ears, I was incredulous of the fit, but in the case of this superb debut collection, I am more than happy to be proven wrong.