Photography @mitchell_sams

givenchy couture gives old world glamour an anarchic twist

Clare Waight Keller mixed classic ballgowns with punk hairstyles to deliver a fresh vision of couture today.

by Osman Ahmed
03 July 2019, 9:37am

Photography @mitchell_sams

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

What happens when a punk gets trapped in a grand château? That was the question Clare Waight Keller asked as she designed her latest couture collection, titled Noblesse Radicale. It was all about punk swans and anarchic glamour -- think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind tearing down the stately drapes. “It’s the idea of an anarchic woman who comes through the château and all of the elements of what you’d find there,” explained Clare after the show. “Everything feels like it’s been gathered from around the house. I like the idea that the château wasn’t perfect. It was part of the way I discovered the spirit and the girl of this show.”


The result was an extreme elegance that was a radical riposte to the world’s crumbling formality. There was something quite subversive about their unapologetic beauty. We saw dresses that were grand yet strictly streamlined: damask ballgowns with sporty curtain drawstrings, architectural shapes cut from embroidered 18th-century Indian palampore jacquards and silk curtain tassels swaying from dramatically boned skirts. “I wanted to step it up a notch, to push it into something that has a little more theatre,” the British designer said. She certainly delivered. One of the most striking elements were the intricately feathered mohawks -- inspired by punk icon Jordan -- that echoed the flutters of feathers throughout the show.


Why do couturiers love feathers? In this collection, there must have been thousands. Two of the most striking were seriously full-on: Kaia Gerber in a spectrum of green feathers from head-to-toe and Sara Grace Wallerstedt in a mantua-wide pleated ballgown speckled with black cockerel feathers. In a sense, they quite literally sum up couture’s flights of fancy; its frivolity and uniqueness. Or, as we saw at the Met Gala this year, they can be camp and over-the-top. Clare described her women as “bird-like”, which brings up another recurring theme: women wanting to spread their wings and fly away. And who can blame them?


Although she seems to be putting her focus on gowns and eveningwear for Givenchy’s couture, Waight Keller also proposed some seriously chic daywear -- an hourglass-sculpted collarless tweed suit and fringed houndstooth knitwear -- and menswear, too. A handful of boys appeared in glimmering finery: a seriously sequinned overcoat worn over a sequin top; an ivory satin-lapelled tuxedo jacket over a pearl necklace; many more of those embroidered jacquards borrowed from Indian drapes.


This collection was a strong outing from a designer who has become comfortable and confident in her role, and unafraid to explore new territory. Clare Waight Keller has joined the ranks of two other women who show haute couture (shockingly, female designers are still in the minority across the board) and between the trio of Chanel, Dior and Givenchy, they balance a sense of what women want, need and -- perhaps most importantly in the Elysian realm of haute couture -- what they dream of.


This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

haute couture
Claire Waight Keller