To buy into a luxury fashion brand is to buy into a house of ideals and values; a foundation laid with its origin story; its walls erected through savoir faire and craftsmanship; the roof buttressed with its reputation; and the interiors dressed, painted and upholstered, arranged and then rearranged, season after season, by its creative director.
The garden is a curated landscape of celebrity ambassadors and friends of the maison: strategically planted evergreen trees bordering the property (iconic clients in classic dresses and suits that form the bread-and-butter of the business); bright and joyous daffodils potted around the front windows (up-and-coming stars donning the seasonal fashion pieces), and at the very front, near the pavement with the greatest exposure, carefully pruned and blossoming roses (the latest ambassadors decked out in statement pieces as symbols of the dream and romance of the house) enticing passers-by to enter.
For a maison like Givenchy, a couturier steeped in such rich history, its celebrity clientele forms part of its foundation; as if the roots of the trees that stand proudly on its front lawn have grown to intertwine, supportively and inextricably, with the base of the house. Therefore, if Ariana Grande is Givenchy’s current muse and flowering rose (fronting the latest autumn/winter 2019 women’s campaign), then without a doubt, it is the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy, Wallis Simpson and the incomparable Audrey Hepburn who are the maison’s towering cypress trees and foundation. It was, after all, Hepburn who famously wore the Givenchy ‘little black dress’ in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
CULTIVATING A MODERN MALE GENTRY
But what about the men? Who is our Hepburn, our Lauren Bacall and Greta Garbo? Under the auspices of ex-creative director Riccardo Tisci, the Givenchy garden was planted with the likes of Jay-Z, Usher and Kanye West donning the Rottweiler-print that was emblematic of his tenure—like Venus fly traps, carnivorous and alluring with a savage beauty.
But with Clare Waight Keller now at the helm, a new Givenchy man is being cultivated that taps into the oh-so-trendy interplay between the bourgeois and backstreet—peonies mixed with wild daisies—banking on that mélange of tailoring with streetwear that continues to rule the runway and retail tills alike.
For last season’s autumn/winter 2019 collection (that was presented on mannequins in the maison’s Paris showrooms), she unveiled a ’70s inflected offering featuring belted petrol blue leather patchwork jackets and flared suits (vivid in their saturated punches of aubergine and burgundy) alongside hooded sweats and bulbous technical parkas, all grounded with serious leather boots and laced brogues.
But for her latest spring/summer 2020 collection, to underscore the importance of grooming this new market, Waight Keller opted for a solo men’s runway show in Florence during Pitti Uomo—the biannual trade show that draws the menswear cognoscenti from all four corners of the globe.
THE GARDENER’S NEW TREADS
Staged in the sprawling gardens of Villa Palmieri, an opulent late 14th-century patrician estate complete with landscaped labyrinth hedges, statement fountains and winding stone staircases connecting its tiered grounds, male models stepped out in ensembles of suits, coats and gilets layered in monochromatic shades—pale fresco hues of damask rose, buttermilk and powder blue—but, as a key point of difference from the previous season, anchored each look with sneakers.
From high to low-top multi-coloured sock trainers, Waight Keller presents the Givenchy man with several athletic footwear options this spring/summer season. However, the sneaker du jour has to be the exclusive collaboration with Onitsuka Tiger (blending couture savoir faire with Japanese know-how) that features the Mexico 66™ GDX shoe in two variations: an all-white iteration with a black tab and ‘Givenchy’ lettering accompanying the Onitsuka Tiger stripe, plus a black version with signature Givenchy red detailing on the heel. It is Givenchy’s first partnership with an external sneaker manufacturer on a global scale and, in turn, it is also Onitsuka Tiger’s first collaboration with a luxury brand.
In this new Givenchy garden, the celebrity blooms are varied and diverse. Actor Zachary Quinto stands beside a pond in a black silk shirt made from a composite of chain-print checks and pinstripes; Darren Criss walks up the ivy-covered stairs in a tailored blue suit worn over a green kaleidoscopic shirt; and Taiwanese actor Jasper Liu has planted himself on the patio overlooking the rolling Tuscan hills in a long-sleeved top emblazoned with punk-inspired motifs.
It parallels neatly with the new sartorial vision that Waight Keller has orchestrated for the house; a veritable fusion of old- and new-world aesthetics, further exemplified in the runway’s pulsating soundtrack—metallic shrieks of a dial-up modem laced with French spoken word. “Art Nouveau with a post-Internet glitch,” explains the show notes.
In essence, Waight Keller is an haute horticulturalist. She has pruned and preened her spring/summer 2020 menswear collection like flowers, fashioning the looks like bouquets; each meticulously arranged to suit the many extravagant rooms that exist in the Givenchy man’s maison; each catering to the different taste profiles (or facets) of her discerning male clientele, celebrity or otherwise.
BLOOMS FOR EVERY ROOM
In the living room, where the Givenchy customer might welcome guests for afternoon tea, Waight Keller has bundled overcoats and trousers cut from a decadent Italian jacquard (featuring traditional florals that morph into pixelated new shapes) together with oversized boxy short-sleeved shirts in a washed stone hue; akin to the rakish elegance of coupling fragrant gardenias with the rustic appeal of large dahlias for the day.
Over in the entertainment room, where the pool table might sit alongside a VR console, Waight Keller proffers a uniform of straight-cut trousers held up with chunky chain belts and tops embellished with gothic Fleurs du Mal calligraphy in abstract prints or, alternatively, shrunken knit cycling tops worn with perforated leather trousers and magnetic webbing belts. That is, the menswear equivalent of pairing stalks of Birds of Paradise with hardy marigolds and the visual impact of large chrysanthemums.
For the classic sartorialist hosting dinner guests? On the formal dining table sits a bouquet of exotic orchids (structured three-button or double-breasted suiting), paired with long and languid lilies (those billowing translucent hooded parkas in pastel yellows and blues made from velvet-touch nylon), accented with springs of vibrant iris (miniature top-handle trunk luggage with reinforced leather corners). Our favourite arrangement, hands down.
And when dinner is over and it’s time for a night cap at the bar, devastatingly chic eveningwear comes in the form of hand-embroidered metallic sequinned jackets and coats worn with floating crêpe scarves; extravagant like long-trailing jasmine combined with dozens of full-bodied white magnolia flowers.
UNDER A TUSCAN MOON
When the show ends, the night sky above the 14th-century estate is illuminated with a laser light show—purple and yellow beams cut through tall Italian cypress trees as guests sip from flutes of champagne and dance under a bright Tuscan moon.
High fashion meets high tech.
14th-century villa turned rage party.
Tulips combined with blood-red roses.
From a distance, Villa Palmieri stands ablaze on its Florentine hilltop. And, on the decks, by the DJ and directing proceedings, is Waight Keller. This might be the house that Givenchy has built, but tonight, this is the garden that she has nurtured.
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