Fall 2023 marked Matthew M. Williams’ best Givenchy collection yet — not a home run, but a very approachable version of tough chic, with all the sharp edges softened, right down to the plush pumps.
Recall that the American designer’s first volley at the brand was hardware, with hefty padlocks replacing buttons on sleek, minimalist jackets, and sometimes weighing down handbags. Baseball caps came in leather with little devil horns.
Yet here were lustrous cashmeres and soigné tuxedo satins carved into coats with bathrobe sleeves, prominent but sloping shoulders, gently defined waists, and dramatic box pleats fanning out behind. There were flowing silks for blouses with long ties drifting to the floor, or sheer dresses in near fluorescent colors.
“Everything has an ease to it. You know, it still has a strong shoulder and silhouette, but you can just throw it on,” he explained backstage. “There’s a comfort to the double-face cashmere. And lots of different body types can wear these silhouettes.”
When Williams arrived at Givenchy in 2020, mid-pandemic, he inherited coed formats, and was obliged to start with showroom presentations and look books. It was only last June that he finally uncoupled his shows, and that seems to have unlocked something in him. His fall 2023 men’s show was solid, and this one followed suit, a fuller showcase of tailoring, daywear, layering-heavy streetwear, and also couture-caliber eveningwear.
“We’ve always had this product in the stores,” he said. “I always say it’s so beautiful that this brand has all these elements to play with. But to get it all into one show and have it feel concise is always a challenge.”
Williams cited no specific theme, plucking flower and fish prints from the 1970s and 1980s, the time of founder Hubert de Givenchy, and interpreting them in different fabrics and body-skimming dresses.
He didn’t highlight any new hardware this time, but pointed to a new top-handled handbag that appeared approximately the size and texture of a border terrier. “We’re calling it the Ugly bag because it’s so ugly, it’s beautiful. I love what’s ugly about it,” he said with a chuckle. “It looks like a little animal that’s going to speak to you.”