“It’s just amazing how dynamic society is today, how global events just rear their heads and it changes the environment that you’re in, even the pace of what we do — everything,” said Clare Waight Keller.
The designer was talking about the genesis of her pre-fall collection for Givenchy, which was inspired by Joseph Cambell’s classic “The Power of Myth,” a book she turned to recently in an effort to make sense of an increasingly chaotic environment. The Greek myth of Icarus, whose hubris led to his demise, felt particularly relevant.
Waight Keller was drawn to its symbolism, in an era when nuclear war — or a Chinese consumer boycott — may be just an ill-judged social media message away. She also liked how it provided a graphic hook for the women’s and men’s looks, in the form of hand-painted prints and bursts of solar yellow and fiery red.
The women’s wardrobe was structured around two key silhouettes: long and lean for the tailored coats with neat shoulders, crisp bolero jackets with finlike arched sleeves, and monochrome evening gowns; boldly oversized for the fake furs, cocoon coats and Eighties-style leather trenches.
Hand-crafted details abounded, from the threaded ruching on the front of a buttery black lambskin shirtdress to the thousands of ostrich feathers stitched on a sleeveless tunic — a nod to Waight Keller’s expanding repertoire since staging her first haute couture show in January and designing Meghan Markle’s wedding dress.
Eveningwear is generating a “phenomenal” response on the shop floor, she reported. “We’ve been consistently selling through and selling at all levels of evening, so I’ve actually started to be less afraid of putting more extravagant pieces into the ready-to-wear,” the designer said.
Her shift toward thematic collections can no doubt be linked to the rise of Instagram, but she said storytelling is not without risks.
“There’s this movement toward really a lack of freedom of speech, a lack of freedom of visuals, of everything, because you’re changing the dynamics every day of what’s acceptable and what’s not, and so I think we’ve just become very aware of how sensitive everybody is right now,” she mused. “We’re almost self-censoring ourselves now because we try to think ahead and predict what might happen.”
An Ancient Greek myth is a safe way to poke a toe in the water. Let’s hope Waight Keller allows her eclectic mind to roam wherever it pleases.