In October, Matthew M. Williams presented his first live-audience runway show for Givenchy in an arena-size, big-budget orchestration reflected in a collection that spared no expense on intricate cuts, treatments, and trimmings. Texture and surface work are Williams’s trademarks, but at Givenchy, it’s often his simple gestures that stand out. It was clear in the consolidated nature of this pre-collection, which served to elucidate some of the details of his runway spectacular. “It’s a pre-collection and it’s a spring collection, you know, so there’s less layering,” Williams said on a phone call from New York. “It needs to be elevated and cool but also something that people can really wear. I think that’s why the proportions on the silhouette are much more real.”
In its “riffing on archetypes,” as he described the exercise, this collection made some viable proposals as to how Givenchy’s tailoring—which Williams said is doing well with his clientele—can appeal to a new generation of suit wearers. The key constellation here is uncomplicated cuts with minimal but noticeable detailing: tailoring like the men’s black tech suit buckled at the waist, or the women’s slightly boxy skirt suit adorned with hardware, or the men’s relaxed three-button navy suit worn over a detachable hoodie under-piece. You could even add the monogrammed denim suit to that exemplification, although it technically doesn’t count as tailoring. At the house of Givenchy, a little austerity often does it.
“We gave a jacket to Elon Musk for SNL, and I’ve seen him wear it maybe three or four times after that. A lot of people we give the tailoring to continue to wear it,” Williams said. It’s a compliment worth holding on to. As observed in the gritty plaid jackets or super-textured rip-and-repair jeans, efforts to make Givenchy a streetwear brand are valiant and no doubt lucrative. Take for instance the 360 knitted sneakers, the G-woven sandals and mules, or the new 4G soft monogram bag—or, indeed, the Kenny, named after Kendall Jenner. But somehow you can feel the ghost of the old house gently pulling its current custodian toward a more classic expression. It’s in the preened and polished sartorial sector that Williams’s Givenchy can really make a statement in a fashion climate where such dress codes have become a matter of choice rather than protocol.
On that note, Williams said that his first haute couture collection for Givenchy—originally planned for January 2022—has been postponed. “We’ve decided to push it to July now, but I’m working on toiles. You might see some previews during the award-show season.” Some of us are hoping to see some daywear couture in there too. When it launches, Williams has the opportunity to construct his output like an organic couture house, allowing his ideas to develop experimentally in couture, resolving them through his ready-to-wear, and letting them trickle into pre-collections like this one.