The English designer Clare Waight Keller moved to New York in 1993 for a job at Calvin Klein. It was the American designer’s glory days: Kate Moss and co. were on the runways wearing slip dresses and streamlined black tailoring; studio assistants wore Birkenstocks. “When I arrived in New York I very much was a tomboy, and there was this raw, boyish energy,” Waight Keller said backstage today. Givenchy being a French house, she’s set up her new Spring collection as a conversation between the minimalist New York she remembers circa ’93—down to the plain white box background of the runway—and the much more exuberant Paris she visited at the time, which was still recovering from the couture excesses of the ’80s.
Waight Keller’s previous collections here have similarly been a dialogue between tailoring and flou. Last season she gave her suits a 1940s gloss. For Spring, the cut of her jackets is slim and elongated and they’ve been paired with Bermuda-length shorts. It’s somewhat difficult to pinpoint what makes a Givenchy suit a Givenchy suit under Waight Keller, beyond a sense of discipline and rigor.
She’s had more success building a vocabulary around her dresses. She likes a lively floral print, silk plissé, and a voluminous silhouette. She’s also made black-and-white combos something of a design signature. This season her floral dresses have a covered-up sensibility that reads as much more 2020 than early ’90s; necklines inched up to the chin and skirts tented to the floor. Though it wasn’t all as modest as that sounds. Kaia Gerber wore a blush pink satin bra and a black leather pencil skirt that Calvin Klein might’ve liked the look of.
The collection jumped around quite a bit and its story lines competed rather than complemented each other, but the most surprising element was all the denim, from short shorts to holey jeans to a V-neck dress made from two different colored washes. The show notes described the jeans’ ’90s vintage upcycled fabric “pointing to a conscious future.”
Waight Keller’s dip into the recent past was prompted by summertime reading of Allison Yarrow’s book 90s Bitch, in which the author argues that the vilification of women like Hillary Clinton, Anita Hill, Marcia Clark and more at the time laid the groundwork for a sexual predator US President and the current threats to our reproductive freedoms. Imagine if society had embraced those women and gotten worried enough about the climate crisis to begin upcycling back then. How different the world might be.
Photos are courtesy of Alessandro Lucioni / Gorunway.com