via VOGUE – PARIS – JULY 1, 2018
Hubert de Givenchy was one of the first celebrity designers. His affiliation with Audrey Hepburn, whom he famously dressed for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, made his name and hers. Clare Waight Keller, who inherited the house of Givenchy last year after a long line of male interpreters—Galliano, McQueen, Macdonald, Tisci—is undoubtedly the biggest celebrity designer of 2018. She dressed Meghan Markle on the day of her wedding to Prince Harry—much to the astonishment and delight of most fashion watchers. Waight Keller’s name rarely came up in the pre-wedding chatter, but the gown was roundly championed as an elegant, independent choice.
That gave tonight’s show in the garden of Paris’s Archives Nationales a frisson of synchronicity. Waight Keller paid tribute to Givenchy, who died in February this year. She is the first creative director at the house to honor his legacy, a gesture that’s at once respectful and humble, as well as brave: To look back is to risk getting stuck there. Waight Keller insisted on the project. “Having met him, and the fact that he passed three months ago, he felt very present in my mind; his legacy felt like something that needed to be celebrated,” she said backstage. “Everybody knows his work with Audrey. But less so the capes, the peekaboos, the architecture, the flou. . . . It was a wonderful trip for me to discover it and reinterpret it my way.”
On the board behind her and in a book on every seat were archival photographs of Hepburn and models in frocks from the ’50s through the ’70s. Riffs on those looks paraded down the runway, but Waight Keller made the point that they weren’t reproductions. The show opener was pink and white in Hepburn’s original, but tonight the cape-back top and column skirt were black and icy almost-silver. The Breakfast at Tiffany’s LBD, meanwhile, was updated with a very au courant hood replacing those multiple strands of pearls. More so, though, it’s the fabrics that are changed. Half a century ago, materials were a lot stiffer and heavier than today’s.
Indeed, the pieces here that held the most modern resonance were in the flou category: goddess draping on Kiki Willems, a caped ivory gown accessorized with a silver metal harness, and tiers of plissé silk that echoed her last ready-to-wear collection. Waight Keller established her tailoring bona fides at her couture debut in January. Here, history weighed heavily on some of the silhouettes, though there is no arguing with the purity of their lines. As for the embroideries, they were at their most compelling on a man’s coat stitched all over with starbursts of bugle beads; perhaps they were so unexpected there.
At the finale, Hepburn crooned “Moon River” on the soundtrack. It was a touching moment and a moving tribute, made all the more so by the fact that Waight Keller, taking a page from Monsieur Givenchy himself, invited the atelier members to join her for a bow. “He believed in elegance, he believed in chic,” and Waight Keller has both in spades. Still, we’ll be eager to see what she does next season when she releases herself from the past and looks forward again.