Cracking the 4G Code at Givenchy

Though the marriage of luxury and comfort has never been easy—even for the most seasoned designers—Williams accomplishes this and then some with Givenchy’s Fall/Winter 2023 collection.

Hubert de Givenchy once said, “to dress a woman is to enhance her beauty.” Embedded in its 4G code is Givenchy’s desire to empower those who sport its luxurious threads by adapting Haute Couture to the sensibility of everyday wear. While that sounds great on paper, what does this look like today, where Hubert de Givenchy’s “modernized” glamour may seem a little out of touch with the zeitgeist of a world clad in streetwear? Since his ascension to the house’s helm, Matthew M. Williams has sought to answer this question through his urban-chic prism. 

Courtesy of Givenchy

It could be said last season’s collection became a looking glass, reflecting on the Givenchy of the past in light of its identity today. On one side was Hubert de Givenchy’s feminine and glamourous design language pronounced in ruched blouses and gowns alongside impeccably tailored sets. On the other, Matthew M. Williams’ California-cool sartorial dialect was annunciated in vibrant harnessed bra tops, club-ready asymmetrically draped bodycon dresses, and distressed denim culottes. Tailored capes and frayed edges on tweed rustled in the soggy Parisian breeze. It was all very reflective of the house’s legacy and what Williams’ role meant for Givenchy’s progression.  

This season we reunite with Givenchy at the École Militaire. Throughout a long hallway drenched in bright white, ethereal synths chime with serenity and sensualityExiting the garden of last season’s youthful display, many wondered how Givenchy would progress its vision. To the dismay of attendees, the Parisian fashion house left only its score as a clue amidst this bleach-white realm of ambiguity. 

As it launched its Fall/Winter 2023 presentation, a black coat tailored to sculptural succulence was sent down the runway. Its shoulders are imposing in their width. Nipped at the waist, inverted pleats run from the bust and expand outwards as they reach their end. Austere on the surface yet subversive in its inversion of technique, the perennially reborn greatcoat indicated a toying with tradition was at play this season. 

Courtesy of Givenchy

Along with the show’s progression, outerwear took to the slouchy and languorous fits of the urban mode. Sleeves extended well past the hands of models in tailored fits. Augmented shoulders gave way to chic silhouettes of imposing width. While their waists are nipped for maximum cinching, they do not constrict. This is where Williams’ language of laid-back luxury really begins to peer out. Aiming for women to feel as good as they look, perhaps he’s cut from the same cloth as the brand’s late founder. After all, Hubert de Givenchy was one of the early opposers to the corseted claustrophobia of his time. 

Courtesy of Givenchy

Following a flood of black ensembles on the runway, emerald suddenly dominated the show. First in a sheer mini dress peering out from a black, floor-length fur coat, then in a ribbed sweater paired with culottes embroidered with a floral motif. Bearing fasteners to attach a massive pocket positioned at its center, the culottes took on a utilitarian tone—this would only amplify as the show progressed. 

Layered over distressed, sheer constructs, classic elements of street style were bound to the Givenchy name. Tank tops, O-rings, technical skirts, and what seemed a high-fashion rendition of the cargo pants frequented by skaters took to weaving Williams’ origins into the heritage house’s DNA.

Courtesy of Givenchy

Reaching its climax, Givenchy’s presentation offered a brief glimpse of watermelon and periwinkle hues in wispy silhouettes of majestic translucence. Hidden under gauzy fabrics, the figure was revealed only in glimpses, leaving the rest to the imagination.

Courtesy of Givenchy

Hints of aquatic references appeared in Fish motifs here and coral-like knitwear there. Glistening textiles resembling scales surfaced in siren-like gowns. One floor-length dress with an asymmetrical neckline took center stage as the height of its evening wear. As its model drew closer, it seemed obliquely slashed. Distorting and dispersing the fish motif, the gown bounced gloriously in motion.

Courtesy of Givenchy

When Williams ascended to the house’s helm, his edgy, urban twist put him in the beaming spotlight of the fashion world. Elevating denim and materials traditionally associated with sportswear, he progresses his quest to merge Parisian chic with American cool. As ambitious as his vision may be, Givenchy is perhaps the ideal house for him to have taken this on. 

Many would consider streetwear to be the inverse of Couture. How could one fit into the other? Conceptually and artistically, the former is about utility and the subversion of dress codes, while the latter epitomizes craftsmanship through tradition. Nevertheless, Williams steps out of his comfort zone each season to artfully entwine the two. While some of his endeavors have been met with more enthusiasm than others, Givenchy’s latest collection indicates he has mastered his formula of inverted glamour and elevated urban mode.  

This is where the crux of the Givenchy legacy’s future comes to light. Now that he’s balanced the low and the high, what comes next?


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