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As at many shows, there were many flowers at Givenchy, but these were micro florals, inspired by the designs on a porcelain vase, and engineer printed on to pleated dresses. The dresses, with their high-neck collars and mid-calf ruffly hems, looked highly feminine but never girlish. They were as pretty as can be.
Like Valentino’s Pierpaolo Piccioli, Givenchy’s creative director Clare Waight Keller has had a stellar year. With her careful tailoring and focus on more elevated daywear she has redefined the codes of brand Givenchy and, in dressing the Duchess of Sussex, she has snagged the most visible client in the world.
It was perhaps no coincidence that her “Winter of Eden” collection took its cue from the early Nineties, when a generation of young aristocratic models, such as Honor Fraser and Stella Tennant, started working in the business, bringing with them the bourgeois trappings of their ancestors and fusing them with the grungy flavours of the street. Having lost many of its esteemed and valued clients during the tenure of Riccardo Tisci, who gained a lot of younger customers with his more sporty point of view, Waight Keller’s focus has been to reestablish the essential elegance at the core of Givenchy. She has worked on sharpening the tailoring (which is currently doing good business), and used the house’s famed atelier to develop her couture-style silhouettes. “It’s about clean modernity,” she said of this collection. “It’s less about sweatshirts, and more about the projection of a modern girl. I want to say that looking chic is beautiful, and then add some freshness in the mix.”
This collection came in many shapes and sizes, from the clever new curved shoulder on the blazers, to the waisted coats with broad belt fastenings, the fluid florals and the huge pink debutante sleeves like something worn by Lady Di. Denim details poked out from under blouson capes and shirts, and the leather mini-skirt, sculpted sweater gowns and cropped blazers made for pleasant little sparks of surprise.
In past seasons Waight Keller’s look has been more prescriptive; here were a dozen different styles. If you didn’t think the micro-pleats would suit you, why not try a crystal strewn tuxedo suit for size? It had a lot of personality. And thankfully so. Waight Keller is a cautious, conscientious grafter, it was good to see her have fun and letting go.
If Givenchy gave us Winter Eden, Stella McCartney provided looks to do the weeding in. Quilted multicolour dresses in vintage fabrics, a khaki boiler suit, such as a Land Girl might wear, Hunter wellies, claiming to be the “most sustainable rubber boots ever made”, and an army-style green hoodie, the collection had base notes of Northern Soul and the whiff of compost chic. Although, McCartney herself described it all as “conscious couture”.
Alongside this upcycled, utility-based AW19 collection, McCartney was also launching a campaign, #thereshegrows, to persuade people to dedicate a tree to save the Leuser Ecosystem, an ancient forest on the island of Sumatra. But this was not the only effort to be more ecologically transparent: she had also sourced a sustainable viscose from a certified forest, and used organic cotton and eco-canvas, too. Not bad for a girl who staged her own little Brexit from the Kering group last year, and who must now fight for the planet as a force of nature on her own. She’s clearly doing something quite impressive: she even got Oprah Winfrey to sit front row.
Jo Ellison will be hosting the FT’s Business of Luxury Summit in Madrid on May 19-21. For more information visit ftbusinessofluxury.com
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