Under the canopy of a stark white tent in the L’École Militaire( à la Dior Homme Spring/Summer 2019), fashion wunderkind Matthew M. Williams presented Givenchy’s panoply of everyday Parisiennes.
This army of ultra-feminine Givenchites are arguably more Carine Roitfeld—who was brought in by Williams as a stylist ahead of the Maison’s SS23 show—than 1017 ALYX 9SM coded, but nevertheless hits the designer’s mark on what’s been missing from his tenure at the helm of the brand: a meditation between Givenchy’s rich heritage and the sensual sophistication of contemporary French women.
Not since Riccardo Tisci overhauled Givenchy’s brand identity and injected the otherwise couture house with a dose of dark, streetwear-infused dopamine has a luxuriate struggled to find its footing in the trenches of modernity.
Yes, the collective rhetoric of the SS24 season has been that houses’ archives are being far too overused, but in this instance, Williams finds his stride in the essence of the past. Where he took one great leap forward, he needed to take three steps back.
That is what this collection conveyed; currency through refinement, elegance in simplicity and beauty in austerity.
Stop a Parisienne woman on the Champs-Élysées and ask her to articulate what Givenchy’s codes were. Could she answer what the brand stands for? Now, she needn’t have to, with Williams sartorially expressing them through a collection defined by elevated quotidian silhouettes. A fitting circuit breaker for a design house that got its start after the ubiquitous success of a shirt dress.
Paramountly, romance was back on the menu. The language of a house once marked by industrial hardware or architectural-level detailing articulated a lexicon of “new elegance” reflective of today’s longing for stripped-back 90s minimalism. Again, recontextualizing what worked previously doesn’t necessarily mean fashion is operating in an echo chamber, but more of a never-ending cycle of self-references.
Here, this was articulated through a contrast of sharp tailoring and soft, sheer dressing; the dichotomy between both aesthetics undulating over 52 looks. Opening with sleek tailoring, Williams reflected on his training and technicality through oversized silhouettes. Coats protruded away from the body with pulsating shoulders and ballooned similar to Hubert De Givenchy’s 1957 ‘sack’ dress. Though, just when you felt the parallels were beginning to feel too similar, Roitfeld ramped up the Parisienne-isms with light denier stockings that rose up models’ thighs.
This gauzy diaphanous effect found its way onto ready-to-wear, too. Skirts were sheer and straight in hazy, clouded colourways. The only distinguishing feature: a single orchid adorning this otherwise 90s-Calvin-Klein-meets-Helmut-Lang ensemble (especially when styled with muted ribbed knitwear).
Away from the workwear staples, Williams relaxed the attire with deliciously draped wrap shirts, cascading tulle that wrapped around itself into a rosette and slightly slumped cowl necks and sashes. But again, when the collection began to feel too predictable, Williams revived it with 1017 ALYX 9SM-approved leatherwork and silver hardware.
This suite evolved into an array of couture-level gowns that hark back to Givenchy’s old-Hollywood era with delicate beading, lacework and sculpting serving as the grand crescendo.
Williams’ confidently asserts that these are the pieces the Givenchy women want to wear to step into the brand’s future. But are we there yet? Perhaps yes, this will be the place.
This article originally appeared on Grazia International