Here’s why Matthew M. Williams is just what Givenchy needed

Here’s why Matthew M. Williams is just what Givenchy needed

by Ollie Cox
5 min

Matthew M. Williams has been the Artistic Director of Givenchy since June 2020. After cutting his teeth in the fashion and streetwear scenes, where he has designed clothing for Kanye West, consulted for Lady Gaga, rubbed shoulders with Nick Knight and Alexander McQueen, and founded his own fashion line, 1017 ALYX 9SM, his appointment at the house sent shockwaves through the industry. 

He succeeded Claire Waight Keller, assuming creative control of both men’s and women’s collections at Givenchy, and has since designed close to ten collections for the Maison. Williams represents a new breed of Creative Directors who have worked across the broader arts sector. While not receiving a formal fashion education – having been rejected from Parsons School of Design – Williams was aware of the power of fashion, constructing his identity from a young age. 

As a teenager, he was immersed in various subcultures, from skateboarding to DJing, and first discovered he could turn his passion into a career during an internship with a sports coach who also owned a clothing brand. 

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Williams didn’t let rejection from art school stop him from achieving his creative goals, moving from his native Pismo Beach (he was raised here after being born in Chicago) to The Big Apple. Here, he would rub shoulders with industry heavyweights in fashion and music, landing a role consulting for Lady Gaga, assuming the position of Creative Director for the “Haus of Gaga” from 2008 to 2010. During this time, he organised the now iconic Lady Gaga x Supreme campaign, which saw her don a drenched Box Logo T-shirt. The 2010s would see Williams meet and briefly work for Alexander McQueen and also assist the legendary photographer, Nick Knight

Furthering his sphere of influence in the music industry, he became Art Director for Kanye West, famously designing a light-up LED jacket for the rapper for his 2008 GRAMMY performance. This laid the foundations for Been Trill, a creative and DJ collective which emerged in 2010, consisting of Heron Preston, Virgil Abloh, Matthew Williams, Justin Saunders, the Mysterious YWP and Florencia Galarza. While no longer active, it furthered the profiles of its members, with the late Abloh also being welcomed to the LVMH group as Head of Menswear for Louis Vuitton

Williams would later use his web of famous contacts and industry experience to found his own label, 1017 ALYX 9SM, in 2015. The label has become known for its elevated take on streetwear, releasing a series of belts and accessories with an aviation buckle. His brand embodies a utility-focused take on modern luxury. It produced legendary runway looks like Bella Hadid’s androgynous FW20 moment, which saw the supermodel take to the catwalk wearing a boxy leather jacket, shirt, and textured tie, and has ultimately seen Williams inject a much-needed life into Givenchy, derived from his personal influences and, somewhat, his own brand. 

Since assuming his position at Givenchy, Williams has brought his unique experiences and fused them with the long-standing codes of the House. Williams’ tenure moves beyond aesthetics, and plays into the wider repositioning of the Givenchy brand, first seen by Riccardo Tisci – who was the Creative Director of Givenchy from 2005 until 2017. During his time at the House, Tisci regularly worked with Kanye West, and further weaved streetwear influences into the brand, seen in graphic tees which featured amongst his high-end hip-hop-meets-menswear approach to the brand. 

It feels as if Williams is bringing parts of this back. Givenchy is the luxury world’s most authentic answer to streetwear, if you will. Like Tisci, Williams is perfectly positioned at the intersection between fashion and music, particularly with hip-hop, which can bring a wealth of cultural capital to a brand, one that has been name-dropped and worn by rappers, including Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z. 

He translates this into Givenchy’s output in a number of ways. Williams has injected a streetwear design sensibility, drawing on his experience working on his own haute streetwear label and across the industry. He has recently pushed Givenchy in a new direction, unofficially designing merch for Travis Scott’s Utopia tour, thus bringing the luxury label to the attention of a new graphic-hungry audience. 

On the other side of the scale, there are also his runways. Givenchy’s SS23 womenswear collection saw tailored jackets and ruched skirts paired with cargo shorts and cut-off hoodies. Totes were cut loose, and leather bras arrived in several colourways, including pastel pink. It was the perfect mix of high fashion and gritty underbelly streetwear, packaged within MMW’s aesthetic. 

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Matthew M. Williams at Givenchy further blurs the lines between streetwear and luxury and represents an exciting time in fashion. He has continued to position Givenchy within both the worlds of fashion and high-end streetwear, which fuses the brand’s history with a modern design direction and culturally-informed influences. With Givenchy’s upcoming show as part of Paris Fashion Week, we can’t wait to see what’s in store from Matthew M. Williams. 

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