Matthew Williams Makes His Givenchy Debut

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Givenchy Mattthew Williams SS21 first collection
Givenchy Spring/Summer 2021Courtesy of Givenchy

Presented via a series of images by artist Heji Shin, Williams said the collection was a “sampler” of what was to come at the house under his creative direction

Yesterday evening, American designer Matthew Williams presented his inaugural collection as creative director of Givenchy via a series of images photographed by artist Heji Shin. Melding the subversive, utility-led clothing of 1017 ALYX 9SM, the brand Williams founded and continues to design for, with the sleek luxury of the storied Parisian house, it heralded the beginnings of a sharply focused new chapter: “a ‘sampler’ of what is to come,” as the collection notes described.

Williams said that the Spring/Summer 2021 collection – created amid worldwide lockdowns earlier this year – begun with its ‘hardware’, the metal attachments and fastenings on clothes and accessories which have long fascinated the designer (at his own label, his ‘rollercoaster’ buckle is a signature; at Kim Jones’ Dior he designed buckles which now adorn the latest iteration of the house’s ‘saddle’ bag, among other pieces). “Eschewing gendered notions of jewellery and accessories, rather it is hardware that unites the women and men of Givenchy, a symbolic nexus of utility and luxury and the place where this collection began,” said the house.

Here, he settled on the padlock for exploration, an idea first inspired by the thousands of padlocks left by love-struck couples on Paris’ Le Pont des Arts. Titled ‘The Lover’s Lock’ – “a unisex object of utility, decoration, commitment and emotion; a sincere yet playful symbol of Paris” – this padlock hardware punctuated the collection, utilised as a fastening on a series of oversized leather handbags, or hanging from belts like precious charms. The latter cleverly elevated the utilitarian object to the kind of romantic, decorative flourish befitting a haute couture house.

Elsewhere, like he does so adeptly at ALYX, Williams swung between clean-lined tailoring – an early section of monochrome black and off-white suiting suggested perhaps the greatest imprint of house founder Hubert de Givenchy’s fastidious elegance – and something altogether more undone, garments slashed and crumpled, or daubed with cracked layers of paint. Sportswear elements were interspersed: whether roomy parka pullovers in leather or densely embellished sweatshirts, or the series of practical thick-soled plastic sliders or clogs (less practical, but no less appealing were the much-Instagrammed “three-toed” sandals, or horn-heeled pumps, the latter inspired by Alexander McQueen’s tenure at the house).

“You find the pieces of the puzzle for a collection, building it from symbols and signs, but never forgetting the reality of the person who will wear it and bring it to life,” said Williams. “The women and men should be powerful and effortless, equal and joyful, a reflection of who they really are – only more so. It’s about finding the humanity in luxury.”