At Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller's Making Couture Relevant Again

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Couture is many things: fantastical, rarefied, jaw-dropping, confounding, show-stopping, haunting, otherworldly, inspiring and ethereal. They're the clothes you scroll through on social media and fantasize about, distant works of art, but rarely see yourself wearing.

However, Clare Waight Keller's debut couture outing for Givenchy — her first ever made to measure collection, eight months into her new role as creative director of the house — managed to bridge the gap between the world of impractical, impossibly expensive clothes and real, actual life with one very strong lineup.

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The clothes, 40 elegant looks in total, were intelligent, cool, and desirable in the way ready to wear is when it is most successful. Her dresses were the things you would want to wear to the weddings, the black-tie galas and the formal work 'dos: a lace dress with a skirt of tiered asymmetry, a sharp-shouldered roll-neck version with dip dyed, multi-coloured layers on the bottom, and a silver beaded and fringed stunner with a plunging neckline worn under a sharply cut coat, lined with dip dyed ivory and blue ostrich feathers, among others.

There was crisp tailoring and flowing frills; slick latex (latex!) and sweet faille and moiré. 'In a way it's a little bit of an old soul in a new incarnation,' Keller said backstage, post-show, the space buzzing with applause and crowded with well-wishers.

During her six years at Chloé, Keller proved she understands what women want to wear through her breezy dresses, separates and bags that became retail and street style hits. But the brand wasn't necessarily known for its evening wear. How would she adapt to couture and make it relevant?

'At the beginning it was overwhelming, because there was endless choice,' Keller said of the transition. She spent months exploring the Givenchy archives and diving into a whole world of new resource, testing out what her new atelier could do.

'I was working with a whole new vocabulary of materials and textures and interesting embroideries — the idea of going to dye labs I've never even explored before. Normally you just send the fabric away and it comes back. This is literally hand painted, hand dyed, everything absorbed in such a different way.'

Few may be able to afford the expense of a made-to-measure, hand painted Givenchy dress, but who wouldn't want to wear Keller's cool and confident take on femininity? Perhaps more than her ready to wear debut back in October, which featured commercial, rocker edged updates on romantic, Eighties dressing, Keller's couture collection had a creative heft that sealed her creative vision for the house — women's, men's and all.

Though, Keller makes it clear the four men's looks are available for women to order too. Evening wear that accounts for the full scope of womanhood (latex coats, men's suits and sweeping dresses): that's an idea to get behind.

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