Givenchy has announced that Matthew Williams will succeed Clare Waight Keller as the creative director of the French fashion house. The designer behind the cult, sustainable, streetwear-inflected brand Alyx will present his first collection in Paris in October.
“I am grateful to the LVMH group for trusting me with the opportunity to fulfil my lifelong dream,” said Williams of his new role as Givenchy’s seventh couturier. “In these unprecedented times for the world, I want to send a message of hope, together with my community and colleagues, and intend to contribute towards positive change.”
Williams will no doubt be expected to infuse the storied label with his unique brand of subcultural cool that fashion fans queue up around the block for. A statement from Sidney Toledano, LVMH chairman and chief executive, backed this up: “I believe [Williams’s] singular vision of modernity will be a great opportunity for Givenchy to write its new chapter with strength and success.” Williams, who founded Alyx in 2015, will not only have to reinvent Givenchy’s aesthetic, but breathe life into a business blighted by the coronavirus pandemic during a difficult time for the luxury sector as a whole.
Williams brings with him an invaluable loyal following—many of whom have supported him since he art directed for Lady Gaga and Kanye West, and collaborated with Virgil Abloh on #BEEN #TRILL, a collective that sporadically released streetwear and mixtapes. He is a designer’s designer, one whose easy ability to cut through the noise as a true tastemaker has drawn comparisons to Abloh—the first designer from a streetwear background to take the helm of a luxury fashion brand, Louis Vuitton, in 2018.
“I am convinced that, with his unapologetic approach to design and creativity and in great collaboration with the maison’s exceptional ateliers and teams, Matthew will help Givenchy reach its full potential,” Toledano continued. Indeed, in his current position as the artistic visionary behind Alyx (like Abloh, he has no formal design training) he has right-hand men and women to construct his utilitarian fashion, while he provides the context and authenticity that has attracted high-profile customers, including Bella Hadid and Drake.
His approach will be markedly different from that of Waight Keller, who spent her three-year tenure reviving Givenchy’s haute couture atelier and aligning the house with new ambassadors, from the Duchess of Sussex – whose wedding gown she designed – to Ariana Grande – who she made a campaign star – all the while trying to open up one of fashion’s formal houses. “The culture of fashion has shifted from one where it was cool to be cruel to now, where it’s cool to be kind,” the Duchess once said, applying the idea to her favourite designer.
Asked by British Vogue to hazard a guess at the secret to his glowing industry report card recently, Williams replied: “You tell me. Maybe it’s because I just love what I do so much.” His breezy outlook (he is a keen meditator) and confidence that things will slot into place (he uprooted his New York-based family to Ferrara to be closer to Alyx’s Italian factories despite not speaking the language) is remarkably reassuring – particularly during a time of uncertainty for the industry. “I try to be present and not worry about potential outcomes,” he added of always keeping a cool head – a mantra that will prove helpful when he starts his new job on 16 June.