The very tactical rise of designer Givenchy Matthew Williams

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At least, that’s the bet that Givenchy’s parent company, LVMH, made on the young American. But it’s also a comeback for the home. After all, it was Riccardo Tisci’s 12-year tenure (2005 to 2017) that imbued Givenchy with a reputation for viral iconography and demonstrated that there was luxury brand money to be made with it. the most basic clothes. (Long live the Rottweiler T-shirt.) Like Williams, Tisci was one of Kanye West’s most powerful creative allies, and the report strengthened Givenchy’s connection to the world of hip-hop. Tisci’s success helped forge a path for current LVMH stars – designers like Kim Jones, who now run Dior Men and design women’s clothing at Fendi, which was responsible for bringing Supreme to the Louis Vuitton catwalk. . There’s also, of course, Jones’ replacement at Vuitton, Virgil Abloh – a friend of Williams and another key figure in Kanye’s ecosystem who blazed the trail from music to streetwear to European fashion. While Abloh’s appointment in 2018 marked a sea change in fashion, a sign that legacy houses were ready to shake things up, the hiring of Williams showed they were doubling, continuing to tap into a young breeding ground. of hyper-relevant talent that includes a new world of viral, highly online and forward-thinking fashion.

Williams’ job at Givenchy isn’t just another design job. The role itself is a sort of megaphone that will allow him to share his most daring ideas with a massive audience. But in another sense, the post could ultimately become an audition for even bigger things: it’s a chance to determine if Williams can grow to be one of the greats. Given how quickly these houses can change direction – Keller lasted three years in the post – anything can happen.

A critical part of Williams’ rapid rise has been his knack for understanding accessories, namely gear and men’s bags. When Jones wanted to revitalize the John Galliano-branded saddle bag and turn it into a masculine item at Dior, he called on Williams to collaborate on it, making it, as Jones put it, “even more masculine.” The items that Williams is reviewing today with her design team – the bags – are essentially her bread and butter. Everyone here, it seems, still has some idea of ​​Williams’ creative vision, and they are all eager to please, eager to hear what he thinks.

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At one point, a Givenchy employee models a part. The man is pulling hard on the straps. “These things work, I think,” he tells Williams, who is studying what he sees. Williams claims he is not a savvy businessman – he will gladly leave the global matrix of consumer demographics and merchandising strategies to his colleagues. (“Sometimes it’s not about selling things. It’s about existing for the mood,” he explains.) Yet he naturally focuses on the characteristics that make an item salable. At the design meeting, he quickly brings up the context of the store, how a certain piece will be presented to the consumer (should a piece be sold separately or as a set?), Or how something will appear in an image. Fashion is increasingly a market where pieces are going viral, as are hit singles or memes; they live and die by their capacity to share.

Williams waves to his colleague, who sags under the weight of this backpack, and it becomes clear that the designer’s spirit has gone beyond straps and buckles, beyond notions of craftsmanship. and adjustment. He works before all of that, now thinking about how he can lodge the product in the consumer’s brain. Calling it the “Givenchy backpack,” he seems to realize, simply won’t be enough. “Can we give this thing a name?” he asks.


There is a photograph of Williams and Kanye West from Alyx’s first fashion show that still floats the internet. It’s a generic image taken during Fashion Week a few years ago and not particularly noticeable unless you take a close look at Williams’ hands, which, discreetly, grasp a pair of forearm crutches. Crutches are quite chic, medical gear-wise: jet black and minimalist, with an air of absurdity, they almost enhance Williams’ outfit. In fact, when he sported those crutches on the runway after his first Alyx show, some viewers thought it was a design object – yet another document of his obsession with space where high office meets high office. fancy. They were one piece with the techno-accessory-oriented sphere of his aesthetic vision. You can imagine them capped in a glass display case at Barneys (RIP) alongside elaborate water bottles and leather fanny packs, with a retail price of $ 1,295.

But in fact, Williams was in dire need of crutches. In 2018, while working in Milan and developing Alyx, he played in a charity football match. During the match, he recalls, “my mind thought I was still 18. I was running very fast and changed direction quickly. His femur hit his tibial plateau and his leg broke in five places. He had two metal plates and a handful of screws inserted into his leg and was immobilized for three months. “I had to relearn to walk,” says Williams. “It was a really difficult experience.” When I suggest that this ordeal may have inspired some of Alyx’s hyper-functional ethics that spawned items such as a chest, Williams retorts. “No,” he says, “but the chest platform was a useful accessory during the time of my crutches, though. Definitely. “

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