Clare Waight Keller called her collection for Givenchy a love letter. As she delved into the design process for spring, she thought of the correspondence between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, and imagined as well her own creative love letter to house founder Hubert de Givenchy. Which prompted thoughts of gardens — those Sackville-West designed at Sissinghurst, which Waight Keller described as “one of the most romantic places in England,” and Givenchy’s Clos Fiorentina.
Just as love letters often display their authors’ most extravagant turns of phrase, Waight Keller’s runway offered ample visual effusiveness. Her show space was simply appointed, if you consider simple the sight of classical musicians suspended in mid-air, in chairs attached to support poles. The idea, she said post-show, was to create an “air of mystery — the floatingness…the feeling, the emotion that you get through the music. And so that sort of isolation — not one of them had a conductor. They all played individually.”
Perhaps Waight Keller intended that e pluribus unum musical approach to reflect the structure of a collection filled with multiple ideas running concurrently. For starters, she countered the euphoria with chic new renditions of her signature tailored calm. She started with an urbane white smoking — no garden romp there — then swerved toward the floral path where there was a lot going on: colorful dresses sculpted from huge, stiffened ruffles; a flower-strewn gown with bulbous peplum; a glorious number in which the model looked like a giant walking iris; a smoking with sleeves sprouting stiff rows of tiny flowers; a black and pink gown that sprouted wings. Among these she interspersed the calming thread of black and white, the former mostly tailleur, the latter, in dresses including a minimalist column that glowed with soigné sophistication.
As for Waight Keller’s “Dear Hubert” reverie, a deep-dive into the house archive prompted exploration of some of his more fanciful haute musings, giving some of the collection a retro aura that felt more revisited than renewed. Among the gleeful overstatements, huge, haute-happy umbrella hats actually looked more like romantic, portable protective enclaves. In the most extreme version, runway bride Kaia Gerber appeared otherworldly, a latter-day Venus emerging from her shell bedecked in an exquisite, angelic white gown. So who needs naked?