Givenchy’s Pitti Uomo Show: An Epic Location, a Surprise Sneaker Collaboration, and a New Approach to Menswear
Clare Waight Keller can architect a fashion moment like no one else in the fashion game right now. You might recall that Waight Keller designed Meghan Markle’s wedding dress for her wedding to Prince Harry. And before that, she changed the rules of red carpet dressing for men by putting Chadwick Boseman in a couture fit for the Oscars. This past weekend she even turned the Tonys into a must-see fashion moment. So when it came time for the British designer behind the iconic French house to stage her first men’s runway show, Waight Keller went big.
The show took place during Pitti Uomo, the biannual Florentine trade show that draws the industry’s top buyers, editors, street style peacocks, and anyone who gives a damn about the menswear business. Waight Keller’s Givenchy is this season’s guest designer, an invitation that’s extended to only top creatives steering menswear to new places (past honorees include Raf Simons during his Jil Sander days, Craig Green, Jonathan Anderson, Virgil Abloh, and Thom Browne). Pitti Uomo productions are known for turning the dials way up on the average show-going experience, starting with the location. In this case, it was Villa Palmieri, a 13th century sprawling house and gardens overlooking the city that would make Oprah jealous. It was there, among the lemon trees and carefully manicured shrubbery and tables of Marie Antoinette-level spreads of food and drink that Waight Keller unveiled her proposal for how the Givenchy man should get dressed for Spring 2020.
A thoughtful approach to tailoring—both in concept and craft—has been the through line of Waight Keller’s work at Givenchy since she took over creative duties in 2017. Her sharp-shouldered suit jackets immediately stood out in the ocean of gutless or lightly padded options, anchoring a silhouette that was at once extremely modern and totally elegant. The designer’s stellar Fall/Winter 2019 collection built on that language and pushed her tailoring experimentation even further via angular jackets paired with flared pants in rich jewel tones that were one part Bowie, many more parts unlike anything else out there. Her commitment to cutting a damn good suit continues for Spring/Summer 2020, except this time Waight Keller presented a spectrum of tailoring silhouettes. Double-breasted shapes came flow-ier and three-button stance jackets were slightly longer and looser (a nod to the designer’s love of the ’90s). It ran the gamut from skinny to slouchy, as did the pants that accompanied each cut.
Tailored trousers are often an afterthought—the baseline criteria being that they match a jacket—in most collections but to Waight Keller, they’re elemental to establishing every single look. No one trouser could satisfy the needs of a diverse collection like this and so she designed several (high cropped and cuffed, roomy with cargo pockets, ’90s big) to fully realize each passage as a complete package. It’s an approach seen more often in women’s wear but makes equal sense applied here—especially as the menswear customer is hungry for more capital “F” fashion.
Every luxury brand has to operate in the streetwear space today and Waight Keller’s approach in past seasons has been to put a sophisticated stamp on classic sportswear pieces through unique fabrications and, of course, fit. This time in the fabrication department, ultra-light Korean textiles are used in parkas that turn any movement into a Matrix-level slow-mo capture and something lustrous called “velvet-touch nylon” (which is exactly what it sounds like) gives outerwear a fresh level of refinement. A category that no brand can ignore in 2019 is sneakers and this collection only features the athletic silhouette, from chunky runners to slip-on sock-style trainers and, curiously, a few pairs of Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 kicks. Those were soon revealed (as in, two minutes after the show ended) to be a collaboration between the two brands, born from Waight Keller’s love of the model. Naturally, they’re already on sale.