In the latest round of designer musical chairs, Matthew Williams takes over the house of Givenchy, postulating an era that is all sorts of cool, consistent, and covetable.
“I think it feels like change is coming and everything is starting to feel new and exciting,” Matthew Williams said of his Fall 2020 presentation, one that for loyal followers of his brand, 1017 Alyx 9SM, noticed a significant shift into the more decadent side of things with diamante-decorated denim, gleaming clips and necklaces, and ostrich-like leather realizations. Perhaps inviting us to look closer in between the seams, the designer was apparently cluing us all along on the future, without of course losing touch of his cheeky Californian candor with kiss marks that masqueraded as indeterminate animal spots, swooping necklines for men, and twisted front straps on silken slips for women. In a requisite employment of hindsight, as it is necessary in fashion, it was a prophetic allusion of his where to next, which of course we now know as the creative director for French luxury heritage maison, Givenchy.
In the latest round of designer musical chairs, the interdisciplinary creative follows the footsteps of friends and collaborators such as Virgil Abloh for Louis Vuitton menswear and Kim Jones for Dior Men, who struck a partnership with Williams to create the now standard stylized CD emblem buckle and chest-rig bags, as well as of the illustrious and intimidating greatness of past Givenchy creative directors such as the man himself, Hubert de Givenchy, John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald, Riccardo Tisci, and most recently, the surprising departure of Clare Waight Keller. If we are talking about shadows being cast, this one is quite the looming overture, but if we are to frame this from both a creative and economical perspective, Matthew Williams stands to be a worthy continuum to the gleaming and gritty history of the house of Givenchy.
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“I wanna say something about how honored I am to be taking on the role of creative director of Givenchy. It’s been my lifelong dream to be in this position, and it’s really surreal that it’s finally here,” he articulates in a voice note published on the brand’s Instagram page on June 15, 2020, putting to rest months of speculation to a successor. It might seem like a decisive shift post-Waight Keller’s era with Givenchy, whose tenure saw a resuscitation of a more aristocratic aesthetic that was both elegant but also assertive in nature. While it was in no a way a diluted version of what the brand has been known for in modern fashion, it was in its own way, distilled for the senses of a woman, which took soaring liberties with wide-brimmed hats on steroids, lashes of latex, and sublime ovoid silhouettes in its couture creations. What Matthew Williams’ induction to the hallowed halls of the house means that it is rearing back to the salient streetwear energy that Riccardo Tisci has made definitive to the brand during his time at Givenchy. Carving out a renaissance of cutting-edge concrete jungle-ready luxury that have become staples for both the snobs of the high fashion elite and the most on-the-pulse of counterculture cornerstones, this Rottweiler and chain motif moment really dictated the shift in luxury fashion, where the trend has since gone from fine to feisty.
Studying the body of work of Matthew Williams from bursting into the scene with his LED-designed jacket for Kanye West in 2008, his disco stick creating time with Lady Gaga, and his brand, 1017 Alyx 9SM, the self-taught and eventual 2016 LVMH Prize for Young Designers nominee has a compelling conviction and valiant vision that is perfect for this pivot of Givenchy towards the future in a post-pandemic point-of-view. Consolidating the precision of formality, as evidence by his portfolio of tailoring, with the rigors of function, seen in the consistent presence of rollercoaster buckles, harnesses, and a defiance of denim, this Matrix-like dystopia aesthetic is the perfect place to spring from moving forward.
Keenly observant and attuned to the thriving undercurrent that charges through society today, Matthew Williams is set to posit a fashion future in the same industrial vein of Tisci, and of other similar design deities like Helmut Lang and Raf Simons. Following his work with 1017 Alyx 9SM, as well as of collaborations with Moncler, it is as every bit pulsating with energy that is synonymous to cities like Berlin and New York. Think: slices of skin exposed in a swathe of leather or a toughened exterior with padded outerwear, insulating wool, and geometric-shaped, space-ready shoes. Don’t think that is strictly for the tough-as-nails or sticklers of sharpness, because Matthew Williams makes sure to air out his collections with introductions of color (cherry red in Fall ’19 and Spring ‘17, lilac in Spring ’20, and splashes of chartreuse in Spring ’19), tufts of texture, and merits of pleats and slits.
“I am convinced that, with his unapologetic approach to design and creativity and in great collaboration with the maison’s exceptional ateliers and teams, Matthew will help Givenchy reach its full potential,” writes Renaud de Lesquen, CEO and President of Givenchy in a statement. Offering a hypotheses of ironies in the form of sexy yet sensible, and classic but cool, the Givenchy that Matthew Williams is set to author honors an enduring legacy, all while giving himself room to exact a distinction from the reputation that precedes him. “I am extremely honored to join the House of Givenchy. The Maison’s unique position and timeless aura make it an undeniable icon and I am looking forward to working together with its ateliers and teams, to move it into a new era, based on modernity and inclusivity,” he details.
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A proponent for the anti-thesis of high fashion, Matthew Williams is focused on sustainability beyond the mere appendage of the buzzword, taking full responsibility by creating garments that are expected to last a lifetime. This is something he is presumably bringing with him to Givenchy, advocating authentic values of research, technical innovation, and creative repurposing that align perfectly with elegant ease. This eco ethos is manifested in the use of recycled nylon, upcycled cotton-rich yarn, and innovative ways to dye, as well as of exploring a modern type of craftsmanship ethically and mindfully.
Cultivating a culture that traces its origins in fashion production, art, music, and photography, the innately visceral nature of Givenchy is set to be given a contemporary edge, one that without a doubt will speak the language of the generation that will grow the brand into the next phase of its iconic place in fashion history. “I’ve worked every day for 15 years you know, towards this single goal and it’s super, super surreal, and at the same time, it’s bittersweet because we’re living in unprecedented times in the world, and I just hope in some way, I can bring hope and you know, with my community and colleagues create positive change for our industry and for the world, and I’d like to use this platform to do so.”
Of course, the true test lies in the first outing of this new leadership, which is set to debut in October this year, but by all indications and intuition, it looks like it’s going to be an interesting swing of things for Givenchy. With Matthew Williams at the helm of this new era, it is definitely made clear: They’re making things look cool again.