PARIS, France — The Winter of Eden. Clare Waight Keller’s dark, evocative title for her new Givenchy collection had a Game of Thrones tinge, which was scarcely diminished by the theatrical transformation of the Jardin des Plantes: GIVENCHY writ monumentally large outside the venue, the letters wreathed in smoke; inside, total gloom, with a narrow catwalk that trailed away as far as the eye could see. Young men in dark suits handed out deep red candy apples. Like something from a fairytale.
But there was no Snow White in the Givenchy show. Waight Keller is too pragmatic for fairytales. She did, however, claim some inspiration from the posh young ladies who took up modelling as a wheeze in the early 90s: women like Honor Fraser and Jasmine Guinness. She imagined them finding treasures in their grandmothers’ wardrobes, hence the updated 1940s silhouette: cinched waist, strong shoulder (Granny was chic!), appropriately paired with a croc-stamped platform. Waight Keller is obsessed with tailoring. Unsurprisingly, her obsession yielded the strongest looks in the show. And whether in cinched suit or belted leather jacket, they looked like a sharp take on the nu-bourgeois style which has gripped Paris. With a black tux, its lapel crusted with crystal, Waight Keller might even have done Marlene Dietrich proud.
Curious as to why Eden was on her mind? I was. Turns out the collection revolved around the idea of duality (and Adam and Eve were the original dualists). Masculine structure in the tailoring, feminine flou in the form of long columns of pleated cling, printed with delicate florals. One outfit - black plissé with a fitted tweed blazer – reconciled the opposites. High-necklined, mostly long-sleeved, falling to just above the ankle, Waight Keller’s plissé dresses were decorous, but the pleating’s movement on the body added a hint of original sin. Remember there was a sneaky serpent in the Garden of Eden? Waight Keller did. She added a couple of python coats out of deference to the snake.