Hardware takes centre stage in the first collection by Matthew Williams for Givenchy

Matthew Williams was a name that came up time and time again in 2020 – first for replacing Clare Waight Keller as Creative Director of Givenchy in June, then for presenting his first collection for the Parisian house in September. But it didn’t end there.

Just as the complicated year was drawing to a close, Givenchy dropped a ‘Teaser’ capsule collection at the start of December, making a slice of its Spring/Summer 2021 collection – the designer’s first for the label – shoppable. “You find the pieces of the puzzle for a collection, building it from symbols and signs, but never forgetting the reality of the person who will wear it and bring it to life,” he said. At his version of Givenchy, hardware is key, uniting men and women and eschewing gendered notions of jewellery and accessories in the process.

The Lover’s Lock, for example, is a unisex object of utility, decoration, commitment, and emotion. It’s a sincere yet playful symbol of Paris, a nod to the lost locks of Le Pont des Arts. It’s an object punctuated throughout this initial collection as both decoration and fastenings. Elsewhere, detailing continues to take centre stage amongst the playful, slightly subversive pieces for both genders. From the Tryp-Toe shoe and stockings to the Horn heel and a further examination of the Antigona bag, each is a play on – and development of – existing objects in the archive.

These are joined by the new unisex Cut-Out bag in its many iterations, as well as the G chains, objects that are destined to add to the maison’s history and interspersed throughout the new Creative Director’s signature experimentation with technical materials. And balancing them? The traditional, the natural, the opulent. From the use of a cotton Ottoman in outerwear, technical taffeta in tailoring, and structured Punto di Milano jersey to evoke more pure forms in dressmaking, tradition is respected yet recontextualised. At the same time, an experiment in different densities of injected foam leads to an evolution of the slide – the ultra-comfortable Marshmallow slide is the footwear that underpins much of the collection, quite literally providing a casual foundation for many of the more formal looks.

The study of casual archetypes continues throughout the SS21 collection, including new technical coatings of denim in both paint and resin, work that is as labour-intensive as the collection’s more traditional embroideries. It is a sign of Matthew Williams’ Californian sensibility transplanted to Europe, him approaching the two sides with equal aplomb and rigour. ✤