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Matthew Williams’ Gift to Givenchy

Wed 20 Dec 23

As Matthew Williams prepares to step down from his role as Givenchy’s creative director in January, now is a good time to look back on his three-year tenure and the mark he leaves behind.

Hubert de Givenchy laid the brand’s foundations over 43 years, but once he was gone, the brand’s trajectory would be out of his hands.

In my view, a successful creative director should delve into the archives, embrace the core essence of the brand, and merge it with their own creative stance.

They need to take the brand somewhere it hasn’t been before, while never losing sight of where it came from.

While some successors steered away from Hubert de Givenchy’s sober tailoring toward a more extravagant maximalism, Clare Waight Keller redirected the focus to the brand’s original style codes.

She reinstated chic, uncomplicated formalwear and couture. Williams, taking it a step further, introduced Givenchy to the realm of streetwear- addressing the evolving landscape of luxury fashion houses, who are increasingly adapting to new audiences and tastes.

Having grown up in LA and founded his own street brand, 1017 ALYX 9SM (shortlisted for the LVMH Prize in 2016), Williams brought a fresh perspective to the French brand.

His legacy now extends beyond single products like the fan favourite “Voyou” bag or viral shark boots; Givenchy credits him with “modernising its entire product range”. 

Williams, with an overarching dedication to elegance, drew inspiration from Givenchy’s archives and traditional craftsmanship while injecting his bold sense of style.

His looks resonated with Gen Z sensibilities, exuding coolness without trying too hard. Respecting tradition, he avoided hyped-up tropes like all-over monograms, preferring to stand out through interesting textures and style juxtapositions.

In menswear, Williams skilfully played with traditional male uniforms, blending classic pieces with ways of dressing that feel more relevant today. He delivered oversized blazers and jackets that still looked sharp and powerful, played with the fit of military uniforms, and cropped many a jacket.

In the Fall/Winter 2023 collection, he experimented with layering, incorporating ‘unconventional’ menswear items like skirts, cropped hoodies and jackets, tight fitting vests into the looks.

Lest we forget, ASAP rocky brought new meaning to the word ‘freestyle’ when he stepped out in Givenchy leather skirt and cropped hoodie, normalizing the shift toward unrestricted dressing. 

Early in his career, Williams already had gigs Kanye West and Lady Gaga under his belt and had a long list of celebrity contacts by the time he arrived at Givenchy. His inaugural global campaign featured a star-studded cast, including Kendall Jenner, Playboy Carti, Skepta, Naomi Campbell, and Barbie Ferreira.

Not a bad first move in the era of celebrity endorsements and collaborations, but he didn’t only hoard the spotlight for his famous friends. As stated at the beginning of his tenure, he wanted to bring the house “into a new era, based on modernity and inclusivity.

Williams extended opportunities to up-and-coming creatives for collaborations, producing NFTs with self-taught artist CHITO and integrating Josh Smith's paintings into the Spring/Summer 2022 collection.

Like many streetwear designers, Williams was partial to utilitarian buckles and hardware and integrated them into his collections, exemplified by the iconic "U-lock" jacket and signature padlock accessories, which took inspiration from Paris’s Pont Des Arts, AKA Love Lock Bridge.

Big Cuban chain necklaces brought a touch of hip-hop hardware into the Givenchy repertoire but were often styled as the statement piece in a classic outfit. Throughout his collections it was evident that he was very interested in texture.

From snakeskin to faux fur to surfaces that looked half destroyed and peeling, Williams aimed to create a tactile experience, expressing, "I want to make clothing that has emotions and soul and feels like it's been touched by the human hand."

His appreciation for complexity, however, was rarely taken over the top, and outfits were usually composed with equal balance of maximalism and minimalism.

Williams approached his designs with a laid-back instinct, emphasizing, "I really just design from instinct: what I think is cool." This unpretentious yet confident approach reveals a guy with good taste, who gave Givency the innate cool factor that so many designers and fashion houses aspire to achieve.

As Williams concludes his tenure at Givenchy, the anticipation for his future contributions within the fashion landscape remains high.

If you can’t get enough of his designs, there will be much more to come as he focuses on his own label 1017 ALYX 9SM. As For Givenchy, rumours suggest Simon Porte Jacquemus as the next creative director, but we will just have to wait and see. 

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