With just two collections under her belt, Clare Waight Keller is a relatively new addition to Paris’s almost impenetrable world of haute couture. But she is no rising star - Givenchy’s artistic director is a fully fledged tour de force.
Her latest couture showcase, a precise offering of architectural silhouettes, masterful tailoring and rucksacks that doubled as bows on ethereal evening gowns, cemented Waight Keller’s position among a new guard of designers bringing a much needed sense of modernity to the Paris schedule.
From violet latex sleeves, worn under gowns slashed to celebrate the contours of the female form, to tabard style tuxedo jackets presented alongside pin-sharp cigarette pants, this was a show that refreshed and enlightened from the start.
Fusing the gentle femininity of long flowing gowns with the pleasing precision of the perfectly cut tuxedo jacket, it forged new ground for a youthful Givenchy customer looking for an ensemble that defines contemporary elegance.
The show was as bold in palette as it was in silhouette with gowns in magenta and primrose among the most vibrant additions.
Certainly, the pieces on offer oozed with the confidence of a woman at the top of her game. And came as proof that after a stellar first year in the top job at Givenchy - during which Waight Keller created the most talked about dress on the planet in the form of a wedding gown for the Duchess of Suffolk - she's a designer in her prime.
Backstage Waight Keller spoke of architectural shapes, pure lines and a quest for couture that is “truly exqusite” among her sources of inspiration. But it is the idea of contradiction; the juxtaposition between toughness and fragility, lightness and dark and clean cuts and volume that is the beating heart of her vision for Givenchy.
“It’s all about contrasts, about shape, about beauty, about craftsmanship,” she confirmed. “That's the direction I want to take this house in. Everything I do comes back to that."
Highlights came thick and fast in this showcase but, arguably, the real beauty was to be found in the details. Glistening pearls featured on raw silk jackets while neat sculpted blazers, were layered over gowns to accentuate the waistline, were among the most subtle inspiring additions.
Were these clothes fit for a duchess? Undoubtedly. Meghan, who presented Waight Keller with her Fashion Designer of the Year award in London in December, will find much to marvel at here. Her husband may wish to take a look too: as part of a small but perfectly formed couture offering for men, Waight Keller unveiled an exquisitely crafted morning suit and a embroidered dinner jacket that would look wonderful on Prince Harry.
Long live the UK's new queen of couture.