When Riccardo Tisci announced earlier this year that he would be stepping down from his position as creative director for the French fashion house Givenchy, a position he has held for 12 years, naturally the first question on everyone’s mind was “who will replace him?” Will the brand go avant garde a la Demna Gvasalia at Balenciaga? Appoint a relative unknown such as Alessandro Michele at Gucci? The list of potentials was speculative to say the least until the public announcement in March that the stylish shoes would be filled by British designer Clare Waight Keller, former creative director for Chloe.
Following the successful and progressive lead by LVMH to appoint Maria Grazia Chiuri as the first female creative director at Dior, Waight Keller’s appointment is no less historical, as she becomes the first woman to helm the Givenchy brand, a position formerly held by the likes of Alexander McQueen, Julien MacDonald and John Galliano, and the second female designer (following Chiuri) to lead an LVMH Couture house. Despite having no previous couture experience, Waight Keller will oversee that aspect, as well as men and women’s wear and accessories.
Fashion insiders and fans of Chloe’s bohemian chic aesthetic have been privy to Waight Keller’s influence for years, but for many people, this is the first they are hearing of the low profile designer who is about to step up to a major international platform. So how did the soft spoken Brit get to this point? The 46 year old has been toiling under some of the most prestigious brands in fashion since receiving an MA in fashion knit work from the Royal College of Art in London. She was hired by Calvin Klein, and moved to New York, based off the merits of her graduation collection. After four years at Klein, Waight Keller took a position at Ralph Lauren, where she became the senior menswear designer for Lauren’s Purple Label collection. In 2000 she was hired by Tom Ford to work under him at Gucci, alongside peers such as Christopher Bailey and Francisco Costa, where she remained until she was appointed creative director for Pringle of Scotland in 2005. During her tenure at Pringle, Waight Keller is credited with modernizing their image, and turing the knitwear company into an international luxury brand. She remained at Pringle until 2011, when she moved to Chloe, taking over the creative director position from Hannah MacGibbon. While under Waight Keller’s direction, Chloe saw immense commercial success, mostly in accessories, but the designer also established a clear aesthetic, establishing the “Chloe Girl” wardrobe as one full of breezy, flowing fabrics and a lighthearted take on gender crossing tailoring. Six years later, we are back where we started, as Waight Keller accepts her biggest appointment to date at Givenchy.
The differences between Tisci and Waight Keller could not be more prominent. While Tisci was heavily influenced by hip hop, streetwear and celebrity culture, producing collections with dark, gothic undertones and a front row full of social media stars, Waight Keller has remained true to a softer palate, and a low profile. Will she revive the femininity of the original Hubert de Givenchy muses Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Jackie O? We will have to wait for her much anticipated first collection to show in Paris this October for the Spring/Summer ’18 season.
Written by LIZ KRAMSKY
Visual Editor MARÍA JOSÉ GONZALVEZ
Photos courtesey of classiq.me, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Vogue Runway, Time, & BoF.