If Matthew M. Williams’ runway shows feel like stadium concerts, his pre-collections are the total opposite. Fuss-free in every way, they strip his Givenchy aesthetic down to its core: stark, streamlined, and distinctly contemporary clothes with industrial accents. “It’s very direct in how people would wear the looks. It’s not over-styled,” he concurred, during an appointment for his spring 2023 proposal in the house’s Avenue Montaigne showroom. The women’s opening look was a literal case in point: a finely knitted black stretch suit with flared trousers that created a languid silhouette, worn with just a bra. It had a kind of Gen Z exec realness—austere but sexy—likewise reflected in clean-cut blazers and leather jackets, polished workwear skirts, perfected baggy jeans, and cultivated cargo trousers.
Williams doesn’t talk about the inspirations or meaning behind the clothes he designs. “I really just design from instinct: what I think is cool; how I see women dressing,” he said, reiterating a point he has stuck to since his arrival at Givenchy. But ask him what musical artists he’s into at the moment and you might get an inkling: “Oh,” he said and lit up. “I’m always listening to Cardi, I like this new guy named Yeat, I like this kind of house group called Overmono, I like this singer-songwriter called Ethel Cain, who’s incredible. I don’t even know how to explain it. She has a unique, beautiful voice.” A quick Google Image search and you can see the fashion influence, although it goes both ways. When Williams discovers an artist, he said, they get showered with Givenchy.
It probably won’t be long until we’ll see Yeat and Overmono—all very on-brand already—in the dystopian spider web hoodie, the eight-pocket denim cargo trouser, and the voluminous tailoring of the men’s side of this collection. Like the womenswear, there’s something approachable about Williams’s menswear when seen through a pre-collection lens, even if those intricate leather motorcycle pieces are anything but easy to create (or attain). Even the more glamorous parts of his women’s offering had a pronounced straightforwardness about them, exemplified in an archival ocelot print featured on a coat, blouse, and bag, and the minimal column evening dresses inspired by a gown from Hubert de Givenchy’s spring 1967 haute couture collections.
The haute couture show that was meant to take place this July—and would have been Williams’s made-to-measure debut—has been put on hold indefinitely. Asked if the looks he had been working on for that collection will filter into his next ready-to-wear show, Williams laughed: “I don’t wanna talk about that! It will be worth the wait,” he vowed, referring to his eventual couture launch. Instead, he is putting on his first standalone menswear show for Givenchy during the Paris schedule this month—a response, a representative said, to the demand for menswear the brand is experiencing. Accessories like the techy, techno-y TK-360 knitted sneakers doubtlessly play a part in that, while new bag proposals like a stretched-out take on the Antigona and the very tactile G Hobo shearling bag will please Williams’s female audience.