From American streetwear to Paris Couture, via Lady Gaga, Kanye, a sprinkling of Kardashians and a supporting role on the Dior men’s collection; Matthew Williams road to the top of fashion has not been conventional. Neither was the tattooed-and-shirtless portrait Givenchy released of him when he joined the house in June. That’s the point. And in probably the most important way, he’s exactly where he should be.
Williams is a tastemaker extraordinaire. His cross-over of sleek sophistication with industrial hardware has struck a chord with a new generation of luxury customers. Nothing feels more modern. Williams’ way into Givenchy was the same as his way into everything: Hardware. He’d already released a Nick Knight-lensed teaser film, featuring gold padlocks – inspired by the Parisian habit of fastening them to the Pont des Art as love tokens. So it was no surprise to see plenty of industrial metal locks, fastenings and finishes. From padlocks hanging off bags and belts to zips snaking around the thighs of men’s trousers and triple strand chunky metal chain cummerbunds. Williams points out that he’s not a thematic designer. Instead, he’s obsessed with product.
His aim with this debut was “finding the humanity in luxury.” He’ll certainly find a new, young audience, looking for lux-sleek looks to wear out. His focus on sharp tailoring played into the architectural codes established by the label’s aristocratic founder, Hubert de Givenchy but Williams is not into archival homages, although his horn-heeled shoes were inspired by Alexander McQueen’s Givenchy designs. This collection, completed in two months, during lockdown, was released with a look-book rather than a show or film. The relatively low-key debut was described by the house as a “sampler’ of what is to come.” The new Givenchy offers a sharp elegance, with similar cuts for men and women and plenty of glinting, metallic sexiness. Throw in playfully pragmatic Marshmallow pool slides (to wear with suits and evening gowns) and you have the start of something.
by Claudia Croft
Photography by Heji Shin.