Since taking on the artistic direction of Givenchy a few months ago, Matthew Williams has yet to bask in live applause from the audience. However, after a spring-summer 2021 collection presented only in photos, the American designer held his first show - without an audience - for the French fashion house on Sunday. In a large dark space lit by dozens of white spotlights, the male and female models appeared to the rhythm of a previously unheard techno track by American producer and musician Robert Hood, while walking on a light film of water that splashed their shoes. Dark and chilly, the set evoked an empty theatre stage as much as a club hosting a wild party, or even the underground setting of a science fiction adventure film. It is no surprise, then, that the silhouettes offered by the artistic director inspire protection and resistance: between the numerous coats in faux fur or sheepskin, the leather jackets, the succession of hoods and scarves, down jackets, anoraks in technical fabrics, knitted jumpers and wool beanies, the pieces cover the body and seem to protect it from the cold as well as from contact.
Beyond a wardrobe that often flirts with the understated streetwear of his own label Alyx, Matthew Williams asserts his identity in this collection through cuts that are defined by their pure, orthogonal lines and geometric shapes. From the highly studied quilting of down jackets to the fine lines drawn on suits and coats, from the grids on several silhouettes, recalled by the Givenchy logo translated into a monogram on soft and tight monochrome suits to the several sizes and versions of the Cut-Out bag whose contours form a now characteristic M. In order to express, as the designer describes it, "the constant tension between two worlds", he cleverly counterbalances this impression of structure and rigidity, particularly in the female silhouettes. Thus, we discover several figure-hugging dresses cut from fine, often translucent materials allowing a glimpse of skin, while, as with his spring-summer 2021 collection, the designer sometimes covers the upper body with asymmetrical drapes and strips of fur, or embellishes silk chiffon with rhinestones and piercings - a technique that seems to have become his signature. In addition to these hidden-revealed effects, Matthew Williams also plays with contrasts through his sharp tailoring: check out the blazers and ultra-fitted coats that demonstrate all the versatility of this new ensemble.