Whilst staring at the crisp white, tent-like ceiling of Givenchy’s FW23 Menswear show space, we had time to muse. There was a hint of a beat somewhere – a faint percussion of some sort – pumping away like a tiny little heartbeat at the back of your throat. What would the latest offering from this Matthew M. Williams era Givenchy entail? Would we spot glimpses of futurism like last year, or reimaginings of functionality? If the ceiling was anything to go by, the return of the 1017 ALYX 9SM founder’s love for vast, liminal spaces seemed likely. And then, all of a sudden – there it was. A pulsation of drums began as Seis Drum’s ‘Parklife’ set the tone for the collection procession.
As the first models filed out, slivers of orchestra symphonies reverberated from every corner. All black, suited ensembles made their way down the cavernous runway with the relentless intent of Italian bouncers, leather gloves and form fitting turtlenecks to match. Following the line of monochrome models, spots of colour were introduced in the form of neon, knitted hoods tucked underneath high necked sweaters, square shouldered blazers and functional cargo pieces.
The utility-chic elements were not lost on the audience – the layers upon layers of practical pieces dangling from each model were reminiscent of the unspoken rule of those who refuse to travel light to the airport, whereby you wear as many clothes as humanly possible in order to cheat the baggage allowance. Overpacking, but make it Givenchy. The functionalist hints didn’t end there. Pieces had universal uses, as seen via the various shirts used as skirt-like additions to outfits, alongside genderless ensembles of the likes of a comfy-core, three-piece sweatshirt/skirt/pant look and banded waists, playing into the exposed underwear trend debuted on a range of catwalks over the past year.
As the show went on, we were encapsulated by matrix-style, floor-brushing leathers and distressed utility vests; python-printed pants with huge, ballooning pockets and frayed white knitwear layered close to the torso with draping strings of fabric, almost allusive of an exposed ribcage. Models lugged camo-print holdalls as if being shipped off to army camp, whilst waterproof elements reigned supreme through all weather metallic puffer jackets and durable anorak two-pieces.
Explaining the Givenchy’s multi-generational pull to the Financial Times, Williams once lauded the fact that both his mother and son – despite their age difference – loved the brand. He may be right about the generational range. Nods to classic Givenchy stylistic elements were clear, from luxurious tailoring to mandarin-collar suits in black, charcoal and navy. On the opposite side of the spectrum however, we saw contemporary, youthful twists in the form of a procession of faux fur, leather and shearling pieces; a nuclear, swamp green dappled bomber; an atomic purple furry jacket with a gargantuan, padded hood, followed by a leopard-print offering of the same ilk. A Bakar-produced show soundtrack (that merged seamlessly with the collection’s effortlessly cold curation) and a star-studded audience echoed Williams’ emphasis on the historic brand’s youthful pull – attendees such as Kodak Black, Pusha T and G-Eazy championed the label in all-Givenchy fits, whilst K-Pop phenomenon Taeyang spurred a crowd frenzy outside the showspace. For FW23, Gen Z playfulness met timeless grown-up designs.
As the show came to a close, the clean, retreat-like space was empty once more, inviting us to reflect on the collection. For one moment, it was calm – clinical, almost – then the audience dispersed, saturating the open white room like brush strokes on an empty canvas. For Givenchy FW23, the message was clear: heritage and youth can always live as one.
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