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Profile: Clare Waight Keller

Almost one year on from her appointment as Creative Director of Givenchy Esmee, Samsworth writes how Waight Keller has successfully incorporated Hubert De Givenchy’s classic styles from the 1950s with a sleek and youthful spin

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When it was announced that Clare Waight Keller would be stepping down from Chloé in order to take over from Riccardo Tisci as Creative Director of Givenchy in March 2017, it was questioned whether or not her style: femininity wrapped in gauzy sunlit-dappled 1970s nostalgia, would fit with the darkly sensual gothic edge that Givenchy has been known for under Tisci’s direction since 2005.

How could these two very different approaches to femininity be bridged, or would Keller take Givenchy in a completely new direction, and abandon the grime and lust for something more whimsical? These were the questions that surrounded Keller’s first collection for Givenchy in October 2017, and in all honesty, they weren’t entirely answered.

The first collection in a lot of ways looked and felt like an extension of her work at Chloé, if Bohemia landed an office job. The colour palette of white, navy and black was clean and professional, but splashes of vibrant red in the makeup and accessories elevated the entire collection, injecting some of the light-hearted, easy feminine charm that Keller is known for. The styling of the models and the classical French shape and design of the separates and dresses was a lovely nod to Givenchy’s founder, Hubert de Givenchy, which surely helped to assure sceptics that Keller was the right (if not unusual) choice for the job.

The move away from Tisci’s punk glamour which had become a mainstay in Ginvenchy’s branding is interesting. Keller has replaced the hyper-masculine, aggressively cool rottweiler that had become an unofficial mascot for Tisci in his designs with cats. It’s a subtler, softer approach and one that works incredibly well with the image that Tisci created over his tenure as Creative Director. In Keller’s own words, “I love the idea of a woman with a feline air… They’re seductive.” In another nod to Givenchy’s founder,  not only were the slender, classical French silhouettes reminiscent of his designs, but the cats were a reference to a pattern created by de Givenchy himself in the 1950s.

It’s this idea of feline seduction; strength and stoicism wrapped up in softness and grace that might make sense of Keller’s vision for Givenchy. Almost a year after her appointment as Creative Director, Keller first editorial campaign for the spring/summer 2018 collection has just been released and offers potential insight into where she plans on taking the French fashion house. Shot by Steven Meisel in an uptown New York apartment, the vibe is very cool and very chic. The models are photographed in black and white, looking directly at the camera whilst the accessories take centre stage in full colour. Keller has stated that she wanted to “play with that modern attitude and expression because I feel like it’s an apt metaphor for Givenchy’s current evolution.”

Interestingly, there is still something very easy-going about Keller’s approach, and there’s still definitely a pull towards the 1970s nostalgia that she explored with Chloé, however, with Givenchy there is altogether a sleeker, more youthful edge.