Clare Waight Keller’s collection showed the mettle of a woman. Grace and dignity have been lacking in the eveningwear arena recently. If anyone questioned why Givenchy would need to step forth again into haute couture, Waight Keller has silenced them.

“I wanted to use the strength of tailoring, but in a feminine way,” she said. Over the many formal evenings and red carpet events in Paris, London, New York, and Los Angeles that she had to face in her former career at Chloé, Waight Keller must have learned a thing or two about exactly how hard it is to get away with it without compromising a modern sense of womanhood. Sisters in the public eye—or anyone with the cash—who intend to stun all viewers without recourse to froufrou will take one look at the impeccable narrow coats and precise jackets the designer placed over glittering, complex gowns and recognize: That’s it!

Poised empathetically between self-protection and self-projection, Waight Keller’s solutions come as a massive relief to grown women at a time when it feels like female power is being eroded. Oftentimes, designers admit they’re intimidated by the houses they step into. Waight Keller immersed herself in the Givenchy archive and came back with the portion of research she wanted:

“The structure and graphism Hubert [de Givenchy] had in his work at the beginning.”

And then, she said, she absorbed it and got on with working with the house teams in “the complete freedom couture offers.” She added, “One-third of the collection is in black.”

She denied that current politics had made her design so much of it. The sculpted, monastic necklines at the beginning of the show couldn’t have been fitted in ready-to-wear, she noted. But her black is nevertheless the colourdu jour, all over awards season, and it’s certain to attract many clients.

Waight Keller talked about being inspired by the idea of a garden at night. “The idea of the moonlight catching the dresses,” she said. You saw that in the pieces that were gunmetal silver, hung with jet or crystal beads, and tiered – devices calculated to look great in movement. It wasn’t a completely perfect collection; she could have edited out the pink and multicoloured rainbow dresses. But in this debut for Givenchy, Waight Keller distinguished herself as a woman who deserves to carve out her place in modern haute couture.

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