Gardens were essential structural conceits in the writings of Virginia Woolf. Clare Waight Keller had clearly taken notes: the literature for Givenchy’s spring/summer 2020 couture collection mentioned Woolf’s novel, Orlando, whilst simultaneously name-checking a series of stunningly beautiful gardens, among them, Sissinghurst, which was owned by Vita Sackville-West, Woolf’s one-time lover and the inspiration for her gender-shifting protagonist. Flowers were symbols of romance here, as the designer considered “the spirit of nature’s ephemeral beauty”, in a show where dress after dress felt like bouquet after bouquet, being deposited at the feet of a fantasy performer. Here’s five things to know about Givenchy’s flower bomb of a couture show.
Upon entering Givenchy’s show space, showgoers were hit with a floral scent that instantly transported the weariest among us to memories of balmy summer nights. The scent drifted pleasantly through the venue for the entirety of the show, to vaguely soporific effect when combined with violinists, who were seated and hoisted up in the structural pillars of the venue, as though playing from treetops. They performed a soundtrack that flitted from the soundtrack to The Hours, to The Poet Acts by Philip Glass, in addition to a score composed especially for the show by contemporary classical musician Thomas Roussel.
As musky scent flowed through the show venue, a series of flowers waltzed their way down the runway – or rather, extraordinary sartorial interpretations of blooms. Waight Keller had been dreaming of the garden “rooms” of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson’s Sissinghurst, and its abundant floral schemes (the Purple Border, the White Garden); of the ornamental beds and fruit trees at Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Monk’s House, which inspired Virginia’s short story The Orchard; and of the lemon trees and arum lilies at Clos Fiorentina, Hubert de Givenchy’s romantic residence in Cap-Ferrat. Down the runway came pansies, iris and fine sprays of gypsophila, realised in the deftest embroideries and lightest of tulles.
Tights have been an unexpected trend at Haute Couture Week – see Chanel, where every look was paired with white tights and, occasionally, white schoolgirl ankle socks, and Ralph & Russo, where crystal-studded body stockings featured. Daily considerations such as body temperature or even just sitting down don’t usually feature in these rarefied spheres, where every hum-drum detail is surrendered to clothing that is uncompromising in its beauty. So three cheers, then, for Waight Keller’s contribution: bright stockings to match dresses, as well as sheer, crystal-studded iterations to accompany the snow-white looks.
Beyond The Veil
If you’re already planning your summer season of social events, from weddings to garden parties, christenings to Ascot, the message from Clare Waight Keller when it comes to hats is this: go big or go home. Like, really big. The whole family could fit under one of Givenchy’s wide couture brims, which enveloped models right down to their ankles. They came every which way, from crinoline to guipure lace. Too much to handle? (Granted, sitting down, and manoeuvring in and out of transportation would be no small task.) The exaggerated hairbands – à la the Duchess of Cambridge – woven in rattan were the easy takeaway and no less desirable. Equally delectable, on that note, was a crystal hair clip strung with long black tassels.
Belt Of The Ball
Seeking to control boisterously exploding sprays of chiffon, crêpe georgette, tulle or lace? Introducing the couture-worthy belt. Whether skinny and left to trail across skirts, or extremely wide, with a chunky buckle offsetting delicate ruffles, belts were a modern, boyish addition to the puffballs, meringues, and acres of floor-filling lace.