The visceral Eighties. Fashion loves it this season, including Clare Waight Keller, who built her collection after viewing “The Hunger,” and also “B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin,” a documentary about the music and club scene in Berlin at a watershed moment. “It’s from early Eighties New Wave, before the wall came down and through that period when the wall came down,” Waight Keller said backstage before showing her Givenchy collection. Her idea was “this sort of cross of the cultures between the bourgeois and the dangerous. There is a sort of tension.”
Together, bloody, sexy vampirism and that particular, gritty segment of Berlin culture provide plenty of tension-packed grist. Yet whenever a designer mines such intense material, or, for that matter, commits to virtually any retro inspiration, deft examination becomes essential: How much thematic cribbing is necessary to make the point, and conversely, how much is too much? All the more so when the shtick involved is Eighties, an era so easily lampooned.
This was Waight Keller’s challenge. Probably wisely, she chose to hold back rather than explode her motif, setting the bourgeois mood from the start with a series of big, in-your-face period furs, literal except now they’re faux. (Waight Keller is one of numerous designers now saying no to fur.) Eighties means a shoulder, and hers anchored a relatively strict silhouette — precisely cut coats; oily leather jackets and coats tossed over tailored looks, and demonstrative, unfussy prints.
Waight Keller’s men’s looked labored; patterned sweaters and jackets tucked into bright leather pants and a tailored jacket on a shirtless guy felt achingly runway-only.
Waight Keller has said Givenchy’s tailored aesthetic reflects her personal style more than that of her boho Chloé girl. Perhaps so, but, her strong couture debut aside, in her second ready-to-wear outing, perfecting the brand’s new runway ethos remains a work in progress. By holding back, Waight Keller successfully avoided Eighties cliché, but the result was a collection of good clothes in need of a shot of fashion adrenalin.