One of the most influential designers of today, Matthew M Williams has taken Givenchy from strength to strength, from futuristic sneakers to Met Gala success, what makes Williams Givenchy’s best yet?
Givenchy’s creative director since 2020, and in the public eye since 2008 during his work with Lady Gaga, Williams has amassed both a cult following and extensive address book of celebrities throughout his prolific career. Putting a luxury spin on retail, Williams’ work combines raw and edgy streetwear aesthetics, stemming from the California skate culture he grew up in, merged with elevated high fashion designs.
Last week Williams took Met Gala’s Gilded Age theme seriously, expertly fusing the traditional aesthetic of the Gilded Age with Givenchy Haute Couture codes. He styled artists Jack Harlow in a satin-silk suit with expert tailoring and Rosalía in a crystal-embedded gown and crown that exuded both Old Glamour and signature Givenchy.
This week, making sure Givenchy is still fresh in our minds, the designer took to instagram to document the lino printing creation process of Givenchy’s latest collection. The collection was the works of one of Williams’ many successful collaborations, a partnership with the American artist Josh Smith known for his brightly coloured psychedelic designs. The post, detailing the screenprinting of Givenchy T-shirts labelled “elder goth, health goth, nature goth, original goth”, reflects Givenchy’s most recent more daring direction with Williams at its helm.
Also reflective of Williams’ prowess are the designer’s innovative ideas in the sneaker scene. Williams’ “dream shoe”, The Givenchy TK-360, is referred to as such with good reason, dropped earlier this week. The TK-360, a disruptive knit shoe without a sole is as light as a feather and effortlessly comfortable, with a futuristic bulbous silhouette and curved design, a testament to Williams’ knowledge on practical construction and fresh aesthetics that have become so integral to the Givenchy house image.
It comes as no surprise as upon his appointment as the French House’s brand director, Williams’ made his mission known; an overhaul that propelled the brand into the future and incorporated Williams’ fierce urban roots into its DNA. Williams took up the Givenchy reins following Claire Waight Keller’s departure who herself took over from the now-creative director of Burberry, Riccardo Tisci. Tisci infused an elevated streetwear sensibility whereas Keller honed in on progressive notions of masculinity. Their successor, Williams, has built on these elements core to the brand and catapulted them into a cutting-edge, innovative, contemporary sphere, threading through Givenchy’s rich legacy as he goes.
Founded in 1952 by Hubert deGivenchy, the brand became synonymous with casual chic. With styles hailed as ‘timeless’ over the years by fashion authorities like Vogue, Givenchy has indeed stood the test of time, pioneered by Hubert deGivenchy’s expert ability to fuse finesse with understated desire and aristocratic elegance with top ateliers.
As with Williams, the house worked alongside many impressive partnerships. In the late 50s, famed model and television actress Suzy Parker, and Dorian Leigh, one of the earliest modelling icons in fashion’s history both became house muses, preceding a legendary friendship between deGivenchy and Audrey Hepburn – who became perhaps the brand’s most memorable ambassador, crystalised when deGivenchy designed the iconic LBD the starlet wore in the romcom Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Givenchy’s international legacy over the next years continued to prevail as it became a member of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture et du Prêt-à-Porter before joining the prestigious luxury conglomerate LVMH in 1988.
Williams’ appointment at the brand welcomed its next chapter, perhaps the most significant yet, his dynamic aesthetic and eye for striking visuals has led to a number of impressive partnerships, parallelling that of Givenchy’s founder.
Creative director for Lady Gaga in 2008 during her notoriously avant-garde futuristic fashion period, he was often referred to at the time as “Dada”, heading up the Haus of Gaga. But it’s for the foundation of his own brand, Alyx, or 017 ALYX 9SM, alongside Slam Jam’s Luca Benini, that Williams attained his cult status. Merging street culture with luxury as seamlessly as ever, Williams created the foundation’s visual identity alongside none other than Nick Knight, and worked alongside brands from Dior and Moncler to Nike. It was readily picked up by greats like Kanye West and earned him an LVMH finalist spot in 2016.
Later in 2014, Wiliams founded men’s streetwear brand and modern-day fashion collective Been Trill, with a cohort that included creative directors Heron Preston, Justin Saunders, YWP, and Virgil Abloh. He was tapped by Dior Men creative director Kim Jones for Dior’s SS19 collection, concepting a stand-out buckle piece. More recently, Gaga and ‘Dada’ crossed paths again shortly before the singer’s opening ceremony at the capitol. Williams fitted Gaga in a cape dress and padlock necklace: a motif that has come to be intrinsically linked to the house in recent years under his direction, inspired by the padlocks locked onto Pont des Arts bridge, in a romantic nod to the house’s French roots.
Seven Givenchy collections under his belt and buckled with a padlock, it’s safe to say that Williams has already left an indelible mark on the brand. Paving the way for legacy brand overhauls to come, Williams balances both street culture and the skating scene with high fashion…in a way no one else would dare.
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