clare waight keller makes couture modern at givenchy
Leather, lace, backpacks and even couture for men.
Just when you thought Clare Waight Keller might take a moment to rest on her rather impressive laurels (designing that wedding dress; having her moment in the spotlight at The Fashion Awards; staging a Givenchy men’s salon show just last week) she completely defied expectation by staging such a sublime couture show that you find yourself asking How? rather than What?
How on earth Waight Keller dreamt up such weightless volume and structured fluidity is still a mystery. Then again, it’s the wonders of couture that make such seemingly impossible feats possible. Clare knows that, but more importantly she knows how to make use of it and is becoming increasingly confident in her vision for Givenchy. The result was a collection all about contradiction, which she said was required to make couture feel fresh and modern. It was a show that harmoniously balanced the pin-sharp tailoring that we’ve seen in Givenchy’s ready-to-wear with the most exquisitely intricate handwork (lacquered Swiss gupipure lace; pearl-studded honeycomb chiffon; painterly crystal embroidery). There was haute couture for boys, too: dark, brooding menswear that offered a contender for the most perfect tuxedo shirt ever made.
The show, titled Bleached Canvas, was set in the clinically stark white space at the Musée d’Art Modern, which Waight Keller said she wanted to frame all of the hyper-saturated colours in the collection. There was a lilac and ultraviolet butterfly pleated blouse; bright marigold and saffron gowns with invisible crinolines; a seeringly hot pink organza skirt bouncing with volume; a rainbow of organza tubes fringing cascading from a high waisted skirt.
One of the most striking contradictions was the combination of latex and more conventional couture fabrics. Waight Keller brought in the legendary, but lesser-known Atsuko Kudo, a latex artisan based on London’s Holloway Road, to execute the shiny pieces seen throughout the collection. Adut Akech opened the show with seemingly endless latex legs and Selena Forrest donned a single cobalt latex sleeve. Elsewhere, Swiss guipure lace was even hand-lacquered to echo the sheen of the stuff. “It’s the modern version of leather,” said Waight Keller. “I wanted that clean slickness and precision. It has to be made by hand -- your hands have to be completely clean when you do it and it takes days to make, like couture. It’s all about shape and it becomes a second skin.”
However, the most unexpected and intriguing contradiction was the emergence of the haute couture bags. You might not see them in the straight-up catwalk photos, but there were giant bows on traceback dresses at first appeared as angel wings. Another show, another giant bow, we thought. Waight Keller’s, however, were not what they seemed. Upon second glance, they concealed giant nylon backpacks with Givenchy logos. Yes, it’s a contradiction in the most obvious sense -- sportswear meets couture -- but it was truly unexpected and reframed those bags with a more refined focus. In any case, it’s a pertinent reminder even at a couture show that there’s a ready-to-wear collection in Givenchy stores that has your name all over it.