Givenchy Fall 2019 Couture

Clare Waight Keller’s haute couture for Givenchy so far has been marked by a certain rigor. This no doubt stems from her deep respect for the house and also, possibly, from the fact that couture is a new métier for her, though she has many years of ready-to-wear experience to her credit. Well, chalk it up to the confidence that comes from time well spent; Waight Keller, who’s been at Givenchy now for two years, got sort of radical on the runway tonight. There was an engaging new looseness to the collection—not in terms of fit, which at times was quite strict. This was freer in its spirit.

Backstage the designer explained her process. “I wanted to step it up a notch for myself, to push it into something that has a little more theater. It’s the idea of an anarchic woman who comes through the château and all of the elements of what you’d find there. I like the idea that the château wasn’t perfect. It was part of the way I discovered the spirit and the girl of this show.”

Of those elements, she said graphic flooring inspired the tweedy, slightly disheveled black and white pieces that started the show; curtains the voluminous silhouettes of taffeta dresses and capes; and pewter the dense silver embroidery of a men’s blazer and coat. The authoritative, elegant tailoring Waight Keller has been honing these past several seasons didn’t go unrepresented for women. A lavender cape coat was a subtle stunner.

Her project here, though, was to tap into that spirit of noblesse radicale, which is what she titled the show. The feathers that sprouted from ball gowns represented, she said, a “bird woman trapped in the house.” The brides—there were two—conjured visions of a deluxe Miss Havisham, with their mad layers of pleated silk, lace, fringe, and feathers. All this quite cleverly connected with what makes couture such a compelling practice: the element of fantasy and the indulgence of even the most sensational of whims. This show will be remembered as the moment that Waight Keller decided to go out on a metaphorical limb. How satisfying to watch her engage with these wilder instincts.