Givenchy’s brutalist, bold and Berlin vision
Brutalist, bold, often beautiful, occasionally pretty sleazy and often chicly modern is how one could describe both Berlin, and the latest Givenchy collection, which was inspired by the German capital.
Staged impeccably inside the giant hall of the Palais de Justice, cut into curved sections and separated by 10-meter high velvet curtain walls, the cast marching briskly, just like Berliners always seem to do.
Givenchy’s designer Clare Waight Keller has clearly done her research in daytime, and after-hours, Berlin, whose citizens love a certain somber magnificence. Just like this show, packed full of noble furs – full-length Siberian wolf coats; beaver pea coats; snazzy billionaire’s wives lynx looks. Except every single one of them was fake. Hard to remember such convincing fake fur, quite frankly.
Where the furs were grand, the leathers were funky, finished to look oily, faintly disreputable and much cooler for that. Whether the medieval-shouldered dusters, or the square tunics or uber wide sleeved coatdresses – often with police zippers to add grittiness.
For more intimate moments a wonderful lace negligée dress in aubergine, and a rather divine combination of mannish waistcoat, mega bow and shards of white silk. Fringes everywhere, recalling how young women really dressed up for club culture. The collection was entitled Night Noir.
“We started with the whole culture clash, the bourgeois versus the counter culture; from WW2 to the fall of the Wall, and that resonated in the oily sleazy leathers. There is a real sense of brutalism I really love about Berlin, and the sense of a journey there, and of taking the elevated train to go clubbing. That still resonates,” explained the smiling British designer, whose soundtrack mingled in U-Bahn train sounds.
A co-ed show where the guys were proper Berlin dudes, from the artist fêting his latest opening in an impeccably cut jet black suit worn under a marvelous oversized white down coat, to the techno DJ in the 80s flared pants and super-hero zip boots; to the excellent off-duty pilot blousons. Practical yet cool, clothes a guy could wear to Berlin’s chicest eatery Borchardt and the city’s legendary all-night club, Berghain.
When one includes a smart new tote, brutally named Jaws, “as it fills up with everything,” a book-shaped A4-size clutch called the Gem; along with a beguiling new police boot with a diagonal zip, and the show also boasted plenty off likely commercial winners.
Clearly, Waight Keller’s debut season working in Givenchy’s couture laboratory has helped find her focus at the house, after a tricky opening ready-to-wear collection in September. Her ability to combine a very sharp in silhouette with frou and lace and ladylike frocks showed a designer finding her range with growing assurance.
Though there are few more international industries than fashion, let’s remember this was a British designer staging a homage to a German city in the capital of France; chauvinism always lurks beneath the surface. So, the British critics packed into the backstage, covering Waight Keller in a halo of praise; while the Italians, tight-lipped slipped out quietly, having still not fully digested the departure of their countryman Riccardo Tisci from the house.
Which was a pity, because this was very much a win for Waight Keller. Inside France’s largest courthouse, the fashion scales of justice just declared her a winner.
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