Givenchy’s debut 1952 collection Les Séparables was a catalyst in the sensual reinterpretation of the woman’s wardrobe, establishing a design language which has continued to evolve over the past seven decades. Today, the Parisian house continues to guide notions of elegance and youthful sophistication through its world-renowned haute couture and ready-to-wear collections, as explored by writers, critics and curators Alexandre Samson and Anders Christian Madsen within the latest edition in the acclaimed Catwalk publication series: Givenchy Catwalk: The Complete Collections. Here, the storied archive of the French Maison is edited and explored across 180 collections from a powerful line-up of creative directors, beginning with Hubert de Givenchy’s founding framework, transitioning to McQueen’s subversive reign and finishing with the vision of contemporary romance Matthew M. Williams instils in the house today.
Illustrated with 1200 original and carefully curated runway images, Givenchy Catwalk focuses on a chronological design process, guiding the reader through the brand’s evolution, from a traditional 1950s label to the contemporary Maison it is today. In the conversation below, Alexandre Samson walks us through his research process, Givenchy’s most defining era and the brand’s ever-lasting legacy.
Madeleine Ringer: How fascinating was the curation process in terms of seeing the throughline between the different designers and eras? Do you have a favourite era?
Alexandre Samson: I have so many favourite Givenchy eras that it’s difficult to pick one. However, the 1950s might appear like a real discovery to me. Thanks to Catwalk, I have been able to discover the research of a young Hubert de Givenchy to find his creative line and process, between the comfort and modernity of ready-to-wear – with a whimsical taste for prints – and the temptation of highly creative haute couture with a transcendent approach to shapes. During the 1970s, I was amazed by the Mark Rothko tribute collection in 1971, which I think truly resonates with today’s fashion. But I can’t take anything from Ander’s texts on the period between 2003 to 2023, in which he developed the approach of contemporary designers among which Riccardo Tisci’s extraordinary influence on global streetwear.
MR: In the days of excessive digital consumption, the Catwalk books remain iconic and coveted. Why do you think the series transcends the obstacles of the digital age?
AS: The Catwalk collection offers the opportunity to focus on a design process with a chronological approach, really taking the time to appreciate the evolution of the brand throughout the decades.
MR: Each creative director at Givenchy has left an exceptionally different mark on the House – other than Hubert de Givenchy himself, who do you think has most heavily influenced the house into what it is today?
AS: I think Alexander McQueen was the most influential as he brought his taste for subversion, which created the now characteristic tension at Givenchy between classic lines and maverick details.
MR: How has Givenchy, a House whose reign began by offering the elegant woman a youthful 1950s look, continued to redefine itself in the face of modernity and the ever-changing idea of the “independent woman”?
AS: Givenchy really represents the evolution of a traditional fashion brand from the mid-50s to our era, through celebrities’ incarnations and highly visual designs.
Givenchy Catwalk: The Complete Collections launches on 16th November via Thames & Hudson.
GALLERYGivenchy Catwalk: The Complete Collections