The Verdict on Clare Waight Keller’s Givenchy

PARIS — It takes a certain amount of gumption to hold your first show for a historic French brand in the echoing, imposing halls of the Palace of Justice, watched over by looming marble statues engaged in the eternal business of rendering judgment. Perhaps that’s why no brand had done it before. But given that everyone is issuing opinions anyway, perhaps it also makes a certain amount of sense.

So beneath the arches of righteousness did Clare Waight Keller have her Givenchy debut, for both women and men. And largely affirmed the common terms of Gallic evening hour chic, at least as they have long existed in the court of public imagination.

Sharp-shouldered wool tuxedo coat dresses; tiers of black and white print (polka dots and stylized florals) with a ruffle or three for flou; red leather trench coats and leather bombers — they were all in there. Short black skirts were given a soupçon of fluidity in the form of a pleated silk insert dipping down and fanning out on one side. Blouses were sleeveless and architectural, shoulders triangulating out in folds, armholes open almost to the waist.

Slide Show

Givenchy: Spring 2018

CreditGio Staiano/Nowfashion

Distressed black denim nodded to the street. A series of de rigueur little black dresses, asymmetric, traced by bows, was followed by a series of pleated dancing frocks in back and white lace. There were gold lip prints on velvet. Many of the fabrics also appeared in the men’s wear. Also burgundy, houndstooth and navy. As well as a lot of vests (there was a touch of ’70s disco vibe).

“Fashion is a tool for self-metamorphosis,” Ms. Keller wrote in a note titled “Transformation and Seduction” that was placed on everyone’s seat. By that measure, however, while there was nothing in particular to object to — the collection was well-researched and polished, with a professional brief — there were also no new standards set, no landmark reinterpretations offered on the subject of identity and its expression.

Ultimately, fashion is at its most winning when it breaks the law, rather than obeys it; when it doesn’t just respect precedent but overturns it. When, for example, Christian Dior flew in the face of wartime rationing and created the New Look with its indulgent extremes of fabric; when Yves Saint Laurent put women in tuxedos and Rei Kawakubo challenged the very basis of beauty. That did not happen here. But there’s always next season to appeal.

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