PARIS — Givenchy is heading to Florence for its return to the men’s runway in June.
The French fashion house will be the special guest of the Pitti Uomo trade show, running from June 11 to 14. Givenchy artistic director Clare Waight Keller is scheduled to stage her first stand-alone men’s show there on June 12, with plans to return to Paris men’s fashion week next January.
“Obviously, being a French couture house, our roots are in Paris, but to take the first leap into men’s wear on a runway level, I felt that would be an incredibly special moment to do it,” Waight Keller told WWD.
“It’s been in the back of my mind for a long time actually to do something there at some point, and it was wonderful to get the invitation to do it. It’s a very important and a really creative place to start a first show,” she said.
“It doesn’t come with the same set of parameters that a Paris runway fashion week does, and I think what’s interesting is that it’s such an unusual setting. Everybody is kind of in a very different mood when they’re there,” Waight Keller added.
French conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the owner of Givenchy, has made a high-profile push into the booming men’s wear market with the launch of the category at Celine, as well as the appointment of new designers at the helm of Louis Vuitton, Dior and Berluti in the last year.
The Pitti announcement comes on the heels of Waight Keller’s well-received men’s presentation in Paris in January, which marked a break from the coed shows she had staged since arriving at the house in 2017.
“January was almost like the first chapter in the book. It was sort of setting up my framework of what I want to do,” she said.
“Pitti is the opportunity to take that step into a much broader collection, and that’s a big opportunity for me to really express what I want to do, and also just my more rounded vision of what I want for the Givenchy man,” the designer added.
Waight Keller last visited the fair about a decade ago, in her former role as creative director of Pringle of Scotland. Since then, Pitti has grown exponentially in parallel to the explosion of streetwear — an area she is keen to develop, following her fall collection of tonal suits, amped-up outerwear and sleek after-dark ensembles.
“Because of the fact that you’re in this completely different environment, it actually opens up so many more possibilities. But I really want to continue what I started in January, this mix between the tailoring and sportswear and what I believe in, which is a kind of a chic idea of sportswear.
“It’s not only about pure casual wear and I think the way to explore that, and the style and attitude behind that, are really what I’m going to put into my June collection,” she explained.
Philippe Fortunato, chief executive officer of Givenchy, said both genders have equal importance for the brand, both creatively and in terms of revenues.
“We have a very special business split at Givenchy, that I believe keeps the brand very relevant in today’s world: men’s and women’s each represents half of the business, which is quite a unique strength in our business,” he said.
“Both are equally important in all our messages for the brand. This is something we have collectively and carefully executed over the last two years, a well-coordinated universe across all categories,” Fortunato added.
“We aspire to offer both men and women the opportunity to create full looks for themselves within the collection, or even shop in one another’s territory — that’s very common at Givenchy,” he noted.
Indeed, Waight Keller’s campaigns for the house have portrayed both genders in mirror-image pairs. “There was a very, very strong business in men’s wear when I arrived, and it was quite a unique situation. I hadn’t necessarily expected to find that, but I knew the men’s wear vision at Givenchy was strong,” she recalled.
“Now that I feel I’ve got the opportunity to branch them off, and actually give them their own real distinction, I really feel that actually the business is going to become even more important,” she added, noting that the men’s side is strong not just in ready-to-wear, but also in fragrances.
Fortunato described the January collection for fall 2019 as “a great success” with editors and buyers. Among the celebrities who have worn Waight Keller’s designs in recent months are Bradley Cooper, Idris Elba, Rami Malek, Harry Styles and Britain’s Prince Harry, who met the designer when she made the wedding dress for his bride, Meghan Markle.
“Of course this upcoming runway collection will be the opportunity for us to anchor the messages we have initiated last season and build on Clare’s amazing momentum, with all the benefits of her cross-gender vision coming to life on the catwalk,” said Fortunato.
“Product-wise, our approach is to be highly inclusive, to answer our customer’s lifestyle in the most possible ways, while sticking to our brand codes and DNA,” the executive added.
That has also meant developing accessories such as the Jaw, Waight Keller’s first men’s sneaker released last year, as well as leather goods lines like the Tag. “We’ve also installed Clare’s great work on accessories shapes, from the revised backpack shape, to the men’s bum bag or the extra-long 4G belt,” Fortunato said.
“I really believe in a men’s wear offer as fully rounded as our women’s,” he added. “But, just like everything else, you will fully see the power of the men’s accessories line once it hits the runway in a strongly coordinated manner in Florence in June.”
Waight Keller said she looked forward to further growing the category, suggesting shoes would be a focus.
“If anything, men are more obsessed with accessories than women these days, especially when you think about sneaker freaks and all the huge collectors of footwear. I think there’s something very, very interesting that I want to deep dive into there,” she said.
Promising a “spectacular” venue for the Givenchy show, Waight Keller was also looking forward to indulging in the social scene in Florence.
“It’s kind of wonderful to actually really embrace that whole ‘dolce vita’ kind of experience,” she said. “Pitti seems to bring out in men the Hollywood-esque element in the way they dress there. It’s very dapper and dashing, and it feels really like the men’s moment to get their street-style wardrobe top-notch.”