Matthew M. Williams is now on his seventh collection with Givenchy. The designer was named creative director of the men’s and women’s collections in June 2020. He represents a class of designers who continue to rise the ranks in luxury despite not having a traditional background in fashion design. He follows Clare Waight Keller, the former creative director at Givenchy, who trained under Tom Ford at Gucci, and worked for Chloe and Pringle of Scotland before joining Givenchy. She designed the wedding dress Meghan Markle wore to marry Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, in 2018.
On the other hand, Williams, who was rejected from Parsons, calls Playboi Carti a friend and brand ambassador and he dressed a different type of royalty, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, for their Tiffany and Co. ad.
“It’s something we worked closely with them and their stylists on,” says Williams. “It came from images of Hubert de Givenchy’s archives.”
Williams understands musicians. He made a name for himself as a creative director for Lady Gaga, an art director for DONDA, Kanye West’s creative agency, and a co-founder of Been Trill, a DJ collective-turned-streetwear brand he founded with Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston, and Justin Saunders in 2012.
But in 2015 when he launched his own line, 1017 Alyx 9SM, with business partner Luca Benini of Slam Jam, he captured LVMH’s attention—he was an LVMH Prize finalist in 2016. His line is well known for its luxe yet minimal pieces influenced by technical sportswear accentuated with interesting hardware, like the roller-coaster buckle that Dior’s Kim Jones integrated into his men’s accessories, and items like the chest rig, which we named the most important fashion piece of 2018. Williams knows how to bring his distinct touch to cool, commercially viable pieces.
For his first few Givenchy collections, Williams has brought his perspective to the line. He added a newly-designed lock hardware to garments and accessories including the Givenchy Shark boot, which was released during Ricardo Tisci’s tenure as creative director. He’s presented slick, tailored pieces along with his signature technical sportswear, and collaborated with artists like Chito and Josh Smith. He’s also brought along his celebrity cohort, which includes Kendall Jenner and Young Thug, who handled the soundtrack for his Spring 2022 show.
But for the Fall/Winter 2022 collection, Williams leaned more into his roots as a skater who grew up in Pismo Beach, California during the ‘90s and this time around, his perspective feels more pronounced. The show took place at the Paris La Défense Arena, a large soccer stadium located just outside the city. Williams’ experience in tours—he worked on The Monster Ball Tour, Watch The Throne, and Yeezus—came through with a transparent, x-shaped stage, which models could also walk under. Guests including Skepta, A$AP Ferg, Kehlani, Venus Williams, and Daniel Caesar bopped their heads to the energetic soundtrack produced by Star Boy and Outtatown throughout the show.
Williams played within a strict color palette of black, grey, chocolate brown, and white that was broken up with touches of royal purple, marigold, and sky blue. The tight palette brought more cohesion to the collection and put more focus on Williams’ skill for textile manipulation. Leather pants looked loose and pliable rather than constricting, while long trench coats had a wispy, fluid quality. He utilized the Givenchy logo more than ever, placing it on a leather and wool varsity jacket, a brown tote bag made with a coated fabric, and cropped T-shirts with graphic placements that were reminiscent of the Been Trill era.
“From a graphic standpoint, Givenchy has such a heritage in graphic T-shirts that I wanted to just really embrace that and give them a reason to be on the runway and treat them with the same care as I do a dress in the couture atelier,” says Williams backstage.
Accessories, which are another strong suit for Williams, were a big focus. They included knit balaclavas with leather brims, crossbody pouch bags, shield-esque sunglasses with clear lenses, and black thistle earrings that draped over the ear. He also showed an updated take on the TK 360 sneaker, which stands for Total Knit, that debuted during the Spring 2022 collection. The newer version has a bulbous sole that makes it stand out from other knit sneakers on the market. The shape alone, coupled with the Givenchy logo, is primed to infiltrate IG feeds once it’s released in spring.
“The idea is that it’s a solid form and the knit goes all the way around 360 degrees to the sole,” says Williams. “We used a TPU yarn to construct it. So it’s just about using materials in a new way. And for me, I look at shoes as forms.”
Streetwear has become a loaded term for the past few years. Some people say it’s harder to define and the category is “dead.” Others, like the late Abloh, perceived it as a label that put him and his peers in a box. But for Williams, it’s a starting point that he’s built on. He’s used his resources to focus on craft and make the everyday pieces special. And right now, whether you think streetwear it’s dead or not, it’s what people buy. Streetwear references lend a different type of cultural currency to luxury fashion. With this collection, more so than his others for Givenchy, Williams seems to understand that.
“At the end of the day, I do want to make clothes that people want to wear, and I feel like they needed to have that ease and immediacy,” says Williams. “I’m also a graphics and streetwear kid. I come from that culture. And I wanted to put that forward this season.”