givenchy embraces upcycled denim
Clare Waight Keller ushers in a new era for one of fashion's most fabled houses.
Givenchy’s show was all about 90s New York via Parisian splendour. Distressed jeans and neat city slicker tailoring; scarf-neck blouses and summery culottes; opulent florals and tough leather bustiers and coats. You get the picture -- it’s a juxtaposition of grittiness and polish -- but beyond the aesthetic harmony, there was a deeper sense of social commentary. Clare Waight Keller said that it all started with book: Alison Yarrow’s 90s Bitch, which examines how during that decade marketers hijacked feminism and poisoned girlhood for a generation of young women.
Clare herself moved to New York in 1993, to start a job at Calvin Klein at the height of its megawatt minimalism and billboard provocation. However, Yarrow’s book prompted her to reconsider that time and the grungy waif look that went with her time there. “When you’re in it you don’t realise what is being said and actually the whole idea of that era,” she explained. “The whole idea of being completely stripped back -- you were raw, you had no makeup on, you were in a slip dress, you were almost naked -- was just another way of sexualising women. It’s interesting to look back and see it in a completely different way.”
So her collection was a riposte to that fragile ideal of femininity and instead focused on confidently dressing grown-up women. “What was happening back then has led to where we are today,” she said. So there was a sense of protection and armour to those leather bustiers -- “not tiny little bras,” she pointed out -- and modest necklines and overskirts. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this show was that Clare addressed fashion’s environmental footprint.
Hence an array of upcycled denim, transformed into skirts, sharp coats and the frayed culottes that Clare herself was wearing backstage. “We are always talking about how fashion can be more conscious,” said the designer. “I sourced jeans from outside of Paris that are from that era and we have taken them apart and reworked them. They are all unique and there is a rarity, but also an authenticity to them. It’s a garment that has lived another life.” For a venerated fashion house such as Givenchy to introduce upcycling into their ready-to-wear -- the pieces will indeed be put into production, each one unique -- is a massive step forward for fashion, and hopefully the start of a much more conscientious approach.
Photography Mitchell Sams