#SuzyPFW: Givenchy: Building A New Base For Women And Men

Is Givenchy’s designer trying to be all things to all women? Clare Waight Keller has given the famous couture house a dizzying lift, with Meghan, the new Duchess of Sussex, as her muse and client. That famous wedding dress brought back to Givenchy the fashion interest that the house had claimed under Riccardo Tisci, as well as the social acceptance that Hubert de Givenchy had originally built.

But somehow, the magic that Waight Keller had brought to her speedy, head-held-high models in their useful workwear or glamour outfits just missed this Autumn/Winter season.

Maybe it was the long corridor of a runway inside a skinny tent that took away the old-school elegance that the designer had previously created in grand Parisian buildings. Perhaps it was the Daft Punk music that seemed like a desperate plea for cool credentials. Or maybe things were the other way around.

That affinity should have been felt in tailored trouser suits and coats with sharp shoulders that have been seen at all the strong Paris collections. But that side of the show was dulled by a desire to produce ladylike floral dresses that looked destined for a different kind of woman – probably one married to a Prince Charming and obliged to dress up like a ‘lady’ for overseas social events.

It is of course a bonus, even a fashion necessity, for a designer to offer variety. It is the essence of modern female life that we work and play, look after kids and ourselves. But who were the Givenchy women and men on the runway? There was none of the knitwear that the designer produced when she started her career at Pringle of Scotland; nor the fluid prettiness from her time with Chloé. Consistency in fashion is usually a block on which to build.

The designer introduced the show as ‘The Winter of Eden’, a look with a sculptural feel “emphasising a duality of all round and sharp structure as the silhouette marries tailoring and flou” (the French word for a fluid fabric with drape). The decoration was both botanical and reptilian.

Just as many modern women hesitate to define exactly who they are and how they should dress, so it was with the show. Maybe there was some of the Latex that had so stunned the audience when mixed with silk and taffeta in other collections. But, if so, they were not presented with the earlier seductive glamour. And this show was, of course, ready-to-wear, not aiming to reprise the glam evening dress that Rachel Weisz wore to the Oscars.

With such a powerful move towards sharply tailored coats and rounded shoulders at the Paris shows, Waight Keller could be seen as part of that movement. The male models filled the role, with a beautifully shaped white double-breasted coat. The womanly version of a suit looked grand and precise, including one collar patterned to make a striking lapel. A sugar-pink dress and trousers seemed less convincing.

A different edit – and another location – could have made all the difference to a collection that had some good pieces, but not the energy it needed.