Musicians dressed in black were suspended high on the stage inside Givenchy’s Haute Couture Spring-Summer 2020 show. They played Philip Glass, the American composer’s poignant symphony the soundtrack to Clare Waight Keller’s spectacular couture, “Une Lettre d’Amour”, or A Love Letter.
Indeed, it was. This was a deeply personal love letter for Clare Waight Keller; one she wrote to Hubert de Givenchy through the art of couture. “It was my own love letter to Hubert de Givenchy, because I went into the archive for this collection, and looked into the history of the house from the very beginning,” she told Sarah Mower. Her mood board featured old photographs of his floral-laden designs, of “cloche-shaped” skirts and the kind of perfect lace dresses seen on his eternal muse, Audrey Hepburn.
But as much as the collection was informed by the history of Hubert, it also had its roots elsewhere, namely the gardens of Sissinghurst Castle, created by poet and writer, Vita Sackville-West, and her husband, Harold Nicolson. It was here, in this beautifully bucolic setting, that Waight Keller planted the seeds for Givenchy’s Spring-Summer couture, and which bloomed into the most breathtaking offering of ballgowns, tailored suiting and bridal.
Recalling the rounded, bulbous shapes of Givenchy’s past, Waight Keller’s modern riffs included a purple pansy-strew bubble hem, a column skirt in canary yellow which swelled with volume at the waist and a cropped bolero-like blouson in atomic orange. Even a sharply tailored black coat sprouted volume at its hem, as Givenchy’s classic bell-shape was exploited fully – and wonderfully – in sweeping silhouettes.
Headwear, too, was spectacularly sweeping; elaborately wide-brimmed to evoke the “umbrella” hats of a 1950s Givenchy, they covered models like a canopy, both dramatic and nostalgic.
Tuffs of baby’s-breath emerged from the sides of a simple black suit, a more outwardly declaration of Waight Keller’s green thumb, as too the white floral-embroidered gowns and laser-cut irises. While whorls of whisper-thin tulle tumbled softly like petals, sharp shift dresses and bustiers-turned-capes in thick organza provided a sense of structure, as too lofty textures like wool and taffeta.
But of course, the most breathtaking moment (and ostensibly the most Instagrammable) came via Kaia Gerber as Givenchy’s bride. Hooded by a spectacular hat-come-veil, Gerber waltzed in a thick white lace chemise with floral appliqué to the mounting crescendo of Glass. Aptly entitled “COEUR”, it was the heart of Waight Keller’s collection, and a defining moment of Haute Couture 2020.