Matthew Williams’ Givenchy AW21 collection is fashion’s answer to minimal techno
The American designer’s second collection for Givenchy brought an industrial edge to one of fashion’s most venerated houses.
Courtesy of Givenchy
Yesterday, Matthew Williams staged his first fashion show as creative director of Givenchy. His SS21 debut was released mid-pandemic through a look book and a slew of celebrities posting their looks from home with the hashtag #GivenchyFamily. Yet, this was a momentous occasion, even if there wasn’t an audience there to witness it.
For AW21, the Californian designer who made his name working with the likes of Kanye West and Lady Gaga before setting up his own label, 1017 ALYX 9SM, transformed the Paris La Défense Arena into an industrial warehouse, soundtracked by Chicago’s DJ Robert Hood. The models had a stompy, fierce-looking energy as they traipsed across a puddled floor in near-darkness. The mood was austere, a bit more East Berlin that Gay Paree. “We wanted to bring a sense of lived reality alongside precision, elegance and extravagance in the clothing and looks,” explained Matthew in a statement. “It’s almost like monumentalising the everyday, filling it with emotion – like music you can wear.”
The music in question would be minimal techno, worn here in the form of slick, techno fabrics and super-luxe textures. “In many ways, this collection is about a constant tension between two worlds,” added the designer, who went on to define those polarised themes: lavishness and austerity, utility and luxury, protection and comfort, monumental and intimate. In a sartorial sense, it came down to quite literal juxtapositions. Fuzzy faux furs and industrial hardware, lean tailoring and quilted leather puffers, slinky body-con minidresses and great, big hulking silhouettes. Make no mistake, this is a collection of extremes, black-and-white in both its approach and, again literally, its palette. After all, this is the maison responsible for Kim Kardashian West’s wedding dress at one point, Meghan Markle’s at another. The pendulum always seems to be swinging at 3 Avenue George V.
It’s clear that Matthew is asserting his vision, just as Alexander McQueen and Riccardo Tisci did before him. Audrey Hepburn, the eternal symbol of Givenchy’s couture and Hollywood history, was nowhere to be found here. Or, perhaps, she passed through the doors of Berghain and exited as a hardcore raver, her iconic long black Breakfast at Tiffany’s dress shredded into a boob-baring cobweb-like gown, or simply shortened to micro proportions and paired with marshmallowy hoof-like boots. Times are changin’ and Matthew is not one to look back. “It’s about finding personal meaning in difficult circumstances,” he added. “It’s about sincerity in what we do rather than strategy.” In other words, it’s about instinct — and this is a designer with an instinct to shake things up.