The past, present and future of Givenchy
The past, present and future of Givenchy
Everyone in the fashion industry and its vicinity knows about Bernard Arnault. The French billionaire and CEO of world’s largest luxury conglomerate group LVMH is a known face among designers and consumers alike. Among many historic milestones, he was among the first to implement the strategy of reviving French luxury houses and assigning young talent to head them.
Some of the names that have become Bernard’s most popular are John Galliano and Alexander McQueen. Both hold high regard not only for the brand but also for anyone who has known about luxury fashion. They were the wise men who directed fashion to a modern avatar that questioned perceptions on popular fashion. From avant-garde clothing to immense theatrical presentations, McQueen and Galliano spearheaded Givenchy to the modern limelight of high fashion.
Givenchy was founded by Hubert de Givenchy in 1952 in Paris with the idea of dressing younger audiences. While Paris, at that time, was dominated by designers showing clients how to wear clothes, Givenchy relied on making separates that a customer could mix and match with their taste. This was revolutionary during the time and Givenchy quickly became famous for offering casual and freeing styles, rather than formal and restricting styles by its competitors. Givenchy’s long-time mentor Cristobal Balenciaga praised his talents while infusing him with modern sensibilities of Balenciaga’s clothes. Givenchy soon became synonymous with Audrey Hepburn due to her movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ in 1961, which featured Hepburn wearing Givenchy’s clothes. The movie became a classic along with Hepburn’s ‘Little Black Dress’.
Givenchy was later acquired by the luxury conglomerate LVMH in 1988, and Bernard Arnault seemed to have different ambitions for the fashion house. Givenchy stepped down from the house in 1995, leaving Bernard in-charge of hiring new talent to continue raking in money. The keys were quickly handed over to a young John Galliano who delivered his signature risqué and avant-garde style to the runway. The runways were filled with exquisite and over-the-top clothes that sparked drama, unlike Givenchy’s previous works that were liberating and simple.
However, after only two years, Galliano was promoted to Christian Dior and the helm of Givenchy’s Artistic Director was transferred to the famed Alexander McQueen, who further catapulted the image of the brand through his theatrics. McQueen himself recognised Galliano as his inspiration and continued exploring his design through various seasons. McQueen then resigned in 2004 from the position to focus on his label.
Another notable Artistic Director at Givenchy was Riccardo Tisci. His approach brought sensibility back to the house after an era of avant-garde experimentation. Riccardo was successful in incorporating dark romanticism that made the brand popular amongst the masses. The theatrics were given a backseat, while bold colours and pretty silhouettes took the charge. Riccardo’s Givenchy was extremely high fashion while being approachable and risky all at the same time.
In 2017, Riccardo was hired by Burberry as the Creative Director, and Clare Waight Keller took the charge of heading the brand. Clare brought the focus back on the fashion house’s haute couture. Her aesthetic was a modern alter-ego of Hubert’s. Expansive silhouettes, easy flowing structures, rich fabrics and beautiful designs – all of which made the brand a pretty girl’s best friend. Following a collaboration with Ariana Grande and entering the streetwear market, Clare managed to ride the brand’s horse into relevance for the modern consumer. She also managed to make an imprint of the royal family by dressing Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, on her wedding day with a beautiful white bridal gown, a feat only a few in the fashion can boast of.
After such prolific and fruitful three years, Clare announced her departure from Givenchy on 10 April 2020. Clare left the house at a time when a global pandemic had cast a devastating shadow over the world where the luxury market was hit the worst. Since last month, several lockdowns and social distancing norms have stagnated the luxury market, which is why Givenchy has yet to announce their next Artistic Director. While the big spot remains to be filled, there have been talks about who could take the house’s control.
One of the most prominent names is Matthew Williams from Alyx Studios. Fashion insiders as well as media personnel have been anticipating him to take control over the fashion house. Matthew comes from a streetwear background and his work at Alyx is a good showcase of his capabilities, be it innovative silhouettes or simplistic design choices. He has put lots of tailored pieces on the runway which are a sign of sound technical knowledge. However, much like Louis Vuitton’s Virgil Abloh, streetwear can be a hit or miss for luxury customers, especially the ones in the older age bracket. Clare left Givenchy at a point where the garments didn’t necessarily cater to a certain audience. For Matthew to succeed in the role, he will have to churn out haute couture as flawlessly as his streetwear pieces for the ready-to-wear line.
Another popular choice has been French designer Simon Porte Jacquemus, or simply Jacquemus. He has proven to be one of the most popular brands that have come out of Paris in this decade. His label, Jacquemus, has a South-of-France aesthetic that screams classic elegance for the natives and French elusiveness to the outsiders. From saturated magentas to sunshine yellows, Jacquemus elaborates beauty not only through clothes, but also his genius accessories including the ‘Mini Le Chiquito’, a bag that serves absolutely no purpose but has become the talk of the town. He has quickly become the most influential designers in Paris and if chosen to be Givenchy’s Artistic Director, Jacquemus will definitely elevate not the brand but his own design aesthetic, as he is young and has the capacity to experiment.
Marine Serre is also an option among the pool of young French designers that resonate with the younger audience. Serre is also from a streetwear background, but has the sensibilities of a French fashion designer not only through her strategy behind her famous crescent moon logo, but also her willingness to upcycle garments in the times where sustainability is the new norm. Richard Quinn can also be considered a viable option, as his collections have proven to strike a chord among people who are looking for great casual designs with a hint of avant-garde.
In all, Bernard has a lot of options as the throne to one of his star brands remains vacant. While there is certainly no shortage of young talent that can fill Clare’s shoes, the times aren’t quite right to focus on risky investments when luxury brands are trying to recuperate sales, and consequently, financial stability. However, the throne of Givenchy cannot remain vacant forever.