It began with a black jacket: cut through the waist with a proper basque for emphasis, contrasting lapels—one, a blade of white. It began with a pair of latex leggings.
“I tried to take the most modern approach possible with everything,” said Clare Waight Keller following her third haute couture collection for Givenchy. Most modern, that is, relative to the maison’s heritage. The text that accompanied the collection referred to a tabula rasa, a blank slate. And indeed, the show was held in the vast, empty galleries of the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Waight Keller said she wanted no set, “the purity of the wall.” But what gave these men’s and women’s looks substance and appeal was the suggestion of beauty even beyond modernity. See the model in an impeccably tailored sleeveless jacket twisting around the neck, her forehead coated with a holographic mask, walking to the haunting operatic voice of Monserrat Caballé.
Waight Keller will refer to clothing construction as architecture, yet within the same breath she mentions the pursuit of absolute lightness. While this duality represents the essence of haute couture—tailleur and flou—she seems intent on considering a more hybrid approach: a Swiss guipure dress that appeared sculpted, or skirts that were flawlessly contoured before giving way to a cloud of sheer organza. From the sexy racer-back of a dress shooting down between the shoulders to the glistening red embroideries shooting through the pleats of a skirt, Waight Keller was working through experiments of form and technique. If some of these engineered outcomes were missing a certain ease, the subtle application of pearls to lace upheld her Meghan Markle-approved instinct for calm grandeur.
Backstage, journalists seemed curious about the latex. Waight Keller rightly rejected the connotation of kink; in color, at least, they imparted a painted-on slickness, indeed, a modernity. And in the spirit of couture, these second skin pieces were entirely bespoke; each one required days to produce in collaboration with specialty atelier, Atsuko Kudo.
The latex wasn’t the only novelty, though. An oversized bow has neither relevance nor purpose. An oversized bow that also happens to be a branded backpack has both. Pairing it with floor-sweeping dresses and showing it now rather than saving it to debut during ready-to-wear might not have been the show’s main takeaway, but this felt like a significant development. Get ready for the haute couture It bag.