In his short time at Givenchy, Matthew Williams has made daring, statement footwear a strong element of his silhouettes, and his spring show took that to a new zenith.
Men and women alike stalked a vast white oval in the Paris La Défense Arena in striking thigh-high boots with bulbous, clog-like soles that are bound to be a hit, especially in unusual shades like mauve or kelly green.
The designer was deprived of the runway since arriving at Givenchy in June 2020 and he approached it with zeal, conscripting American rapper Young Thug for an exclusive soundtrack, and constructing a mammoth domed light that hovered over the catwalk like a giant sun.
He wished to shine a spotlight on all the color in the collection, the product of a collaboration with American artist Josh Smith, known for his semi-abstract works with watery brush strokes, as well as gritty, ghoulish ceramics.
Backstage before the show, Williams, the American designer behind the 1017 Alyx 9SM label and a key ringleader of the luxury streetwear scene, confessed that color is not his usual wheelhouse. Yet he absorbed the broad, almost psychedelic palette Smith employs for his paintings of palm trees and the Grim Reaper.
These disquieting tableaus appeared late in the show, reproduced on a craft-intensive sweater and gauzy anoraks. Their bohemian spirit felt like an unresolved detour from all the sleek, Neoprene-backed tailoring.
Peplums were the main design statement for women, sprouting from snug, abbreviated jackets and occasionally trimmed in tinted broderie anglaise, as if the garments had been decorated with frosting. Knit minidresses echoed the shape, erupting in flounces at the hem.
Williams reined in the hardware somewhat, showing only a couple of nip-waist jackets with padlock closures and fewer heavy chains than normal. Backstage before the show, he pointed to small metal trinkets and scrap metal, collected from Smith’s Brooklyn studio, that were transformed into rings or daintier necklaces. “It was a really involved collaboration,” he stressed.
The men’s looks felt very assured, including boxy zip-up jackets, handsome leathers and rubbery-looking raincoats.
The designer still seems to be searching for a sweet spot in women’s wear, and he’s bound to find it in Givenchy’s couture atelier, given his intense interest in the making of things.
For this show, he tapped the flou department to create ethereal gowns with sprays of pleats at the hipline, and sexy, lingerie-like bodices. These felt like something new under that big, artificial sun.