Givenchy has confirmed that Matthew M. Williams, the designer behind the cult label 1017 ALYX 9SM – known simply as Alyx – will be the Parisian house’s new Creative Director, across men’s and womenswear. The announcement follows the exit of British designer Clare Waight Keller in April, after three years in the role, and highlights such as designing Meghan the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress in 2018.
Williams, a 34-year-old American, announced his new role in a way that suits his generation – with a voice note on Givenchy’s Instagram account. “It’s been my life-long dream to be in this position, and it’s really surreal that it’s finally here,” he said. Sidney Toledano, the CEO of Givenchy’s parent company LVMH, commented in the more traditional method of a press release. “I believe his singular vision of modernity will be a great opportunity for Givenchy to write its new chapter with strength and success,” he said.
Williams, who is white, also addressed – although not directly – the protests around racial inequality across industries in recent weeks. He said his success was “bittersweet because we’re living in unprecedented times in the world, and I just hope in some way I can bring hope and with my community and colleagues create positive change for our industry and for the world, and I would like to use this platform to do so.” In 2020, those at the top of fashion brands remain overwhelmingly white. Virgil Abloh, Williams’ friend and the designer of Off-White and Louis Vuitton menswear since 2018, is a notable exception. Abloh has been criticized for his Response to the protests in recent weeks.
The choice of Williams is a departure from Waight Keller’s point of view. The designer, who likely appeared on Toledano’s radar when he was a finalist in the 2017 LVMH Prize, is associated with a so-called ‘streetwear’ aesthetic, one which typically takes inspiration from hip-hop culture and functional design. Rather than the romance and smartness that Waight Keller offered, Williams’ appointment refers back to the work of Ricardo Tisci, the ex-artistic director of Givenchy, who is now at Burberry. Tisci, over his 12-year tenure at Givenchy, brought ‘streetwear’ staples like hoodies and trainers to the catwalk.