Matthew Williams for the Spring – Summer 2024 collection reflects on the collective understanding of elegance by interrogating the codes that seduce our common sense of refinement. He does this first by deftly mixing luxury and utility, sumptuousness and austerity, along with imperfect beauty and humanity. Women’s silhouettes explore the tension between extravagance and discipline, between tradition and the present: the drape of a chiffon dress, the curves of necklines, the grace of a hand-painted flower. Givenchy is today’s desire for simplicity and Matthew Williams accomplice in this quest elaborates in the SS24 collection a new contemporary grammar of elegance. The looks are real, the silhouettes suspended and relaxed, the atmosphere around the catwalk immersive. The clothes appropriate the codes of evening for daytime, and it is thus that plays of transparencies take the audience’s mind back to a world approaching that of haute couture: long evening dresses with plunging necklines are paired with stiletto heels enclosed by a sock-like covering that elongates the silhouette and becomes a boot with an ankle strap, jackets with open, winged backs echo contemporary reinterpretations of opera coats constructed in delicate duchesse satin. Once again, classicism and subversion play a central role in the creative process of the designer, who combines material experimentation and timeless techniques, creating an architectural and performative tailoring.
The architecture of the show designed by Gabriel Calatrava is formed like the collection by fluttering fabrics suspended around a light steel skeleton, like a chrysalis.
In fact, it is the skilful dialogue between different materials that fascinates the public from the very first looks, such as the series of dresses composed of chiffon, taffeta and organza, finally adorned with the floral print, an imperishable symbol of elegance and the Givenchy archive. Then there are the long skirts in mud silk, a Ming dynasty dyeing technique in which the silk conveys a swinging skin effect. This material permeates the entire collection, dialoguing with leather tailoring, such as the details of the Voyou bag – invigorated by sliding chain straps. A new bag with a trapezoidal flap framed by sturdy acetate metal buckles is echoed in a slimmer clutch in embossed crocodile or ruched duchesse, with a shoulder strap adorned with a thin “bra chain”. A new 4G buckle embellishes dresses and sunglasses, as does an abstract bird decoration that architecturally articulates a soft lambskin clutch and shoulder bag. Draped chiffon dresses embody the lines of the collection, constructing sculptural and voluminous défilé thanks to the play of layering and experimentation between materials, while formal looks become modern cocktail dresses. Accessories skilfully interpret the thread of the collection such as crystal chokers, hoop earrings and rings, adorned with single pearl pendants that are reflected in the most elegant pearl necklaces.
Williams’ proposal for the French Maison expresses confidence, feminine empowerment and determination, combining the designer’s more street style with the romantic and sensual French style that together create sophisticated yet clean lines. At a difficult time in history when fashion cannot communicate in an extravagant and glitzy way, the only possible recipe seems to be to focus on the construction of everyday, elegant and wearable products, without superstructures and representations. This is also reflected in the show’s immersive set-up in the École Militaire park. Givenchy’s reflection takes shape within an urban-scale sculpture designed by Gabriel Calatrava for the Collaborative Architecture Laboratory. A conceptual and physical inversion of the institutional catwalk tent. The structure consists of a fluttering fabric suspended around a light steel skeleton and features a chrysalis-like space inside: an intimate monochrome white interior with a calm atmosphere that reflects the collection’s themes of simplicity and elegance.