Givenchy announced today on Instagram, the current preferred method of communication in fashion, that its new creative director will be Clare Waight Keller.
If you have not heard of Keller, that’s because she is not one of fashion’s celebrity designers, the sort who are photographed on the red carpet and at glitzy events almost as much as the entertainers and actors that they dress (see, for example, Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing).
Keller recently stepped down as creative director at Chloe and showed her final collection for that house this month. When she took her bows, she received sustained applause from the audience — not because her fall 2017 collection was groundbreaking or provocative, but because her six-year tenure had been solid, both financially and creatively. She had done her job quietly and competently.
Keller will be replaced at Chloe by Natacha Ramsay-Levi, who has been working in the wings at Louis Vuitton, and these two moves will mark a significant increase in the number of women leading establishment houses in Paris. Those ranks include Maria Grazia Chiuri at Christian Dior and Bouchra Jarra at Lanvin.
At Givenchy, Keller follows Riccardo Tisci, who departed the house in January. He blessed her appointment by leaving a heart emoji on the Instagram announcement, so it seems that this game of designer musical chairs is a good-humored one. Indeed, for fall 2017, Givenchy offered a collection of Tisci’s greatest hits — a selection of classic looks pulled from his 12 years at the house. Each will be offered in red, black or beige.
If it is possible to select a designer whose aesthetic is the opposite of Tisci’s, then Givenchy has accomplished that with Keller. Tisci’s sensibility was rooted in Gothic romance: dark and moody, with a hint of danger. It was sexy. Tisci never let Givenchy’s history of Audrey Hepburn’s clean-lined elegance stop him from pursuing collections inspired by cholo culture or the subversive photography of Guy Bourdin. And it was regularly worn by various members of the Kardashian-West clan. It’s hard to put a price tag on the value of that relationship and its ability to stir pop culture and social-media buzz. The Kardashians loved Tisci’s version of Givenchy. And the cameras adore the Kardashians. Either you will revel in that or turn away out of sheer zeitgeist exhaustion.
Keller’s work has always been akin to fresh air and blue skies. Certainly, part of that was because of the history of Chloe, rooted in high-end bohemia and eccentricity. It’s the sort of sensibility that has attracted boldface names such as Solange Knowles. This switch suggests that the house is looking for less darkness and more sunshine. It is a new day. And it is one that does not seem to include the house being a supporting character in the Kardashian show.