Givenchy names Clare Waight Keller new Creative Director
Clare Waight Keller joins Givenchy from Chloé, where she staged her last runway show on March 2, bringing to an end a tenure of six years. Waight Keller succeeds Riccardo Tisci, who quit the house in January after 12 years in charge. The appointment marks a radical change for Givenchy – away from the dark Italian Gothic edge of Tisci and towards the Anglo-French Cool Girl romanticism of Waight Keller.
“Hubert de Givenchy’s confident style has always been an inspiration and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this legendary house’s history. I look forward to working with the teams and writing a new chapter in this beautiful story,” said Waight Keller.
While at Chloé, Waight Keller moved the brand geographically – taking a spring collection to the Brody House, a famed temple of Los Angeles Modernism – and shooting ads all over the planet. She was credited with creating inspiring campaigns – staging shoots from Puglia to the Adirondacks to the Luxembourg Gardens, to capture the haute Bohemian mood of her collections.
“I am very happy to have Clare Waight Keller join the LVMH Group. I believe her widespread expertise and vision will allow Givenchy to enter the next phase of its unique path. I am very much looking forward to her contribution to the maison’s continued success," said Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, the luxury conglomerate that owns Givenchy.
“CLARE WAIGHT KELLER. NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR. SHOT BY STEVEN MEISEL,” read the news on Givenchyofficial, the house’s Instagram page. On the web, opinion was highly positive about the appointment, ranging from: “Omggggggggggg” (meaning Oh My God) to “AMAZING.”
While at Chloé she was the sixth woman to helm the house, path-breaking Waight Keller will be the first woman to helm Givenchy. The house was founded by Hubert de Givenchy in 1952 with a Les Séparables collection, with floaty skirts and puffy blouses. Indeed, the defining item of his reign was the Bettina blouse, a white shirt named after model Bettina Graziani, made legendary by a René Grau painting. Though his most famous ambassador was Audrey Hepburn, the star of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sabrina, for which costume Edith Head won an Academy Award. Since his retirement in 1995 the house went through three British designers – John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Julien MacDonald - before settling on Tisci in February 2005.
Waight Keller will take on all creative responsibilities, including women’s and men’s ready-to-wear and accessories collections, as well as Haute Couture at the LVMH fashion brand. While Tisci had given the French brand a modern edge and boosted its leather goods sales, he was also known for often changing his mind and his collections at the last minute.
Waight Keller joined Chloé in 2011 from Pringle of Scotland where she was artistic director and previously worked at Gucci, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren. She departed Chloé on a high note in terms of sales growth. However, she had found it difficult to work with the brand’s chief executive Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, several sources had said. They added that her repeated attempts to gain an increase in salary proportional to an increase in sales had been rebuffed. Waight Keller had been in talks with LVMH for several months, sources close to the designer said.
Back in November, Chloé owner, Swiss-based Richemont, said the French label "enjoyed a geographically broad-based double-digit growth rate (in half-year sales), largely driven by leather," helped by the popularity of the Drew and Faye leather bags.
Waight Keller is regarded as an experienced and professional pair of hands, who can build a strong story around a brand and surround herself with talented assistant designers. She was behind the designs for some of Chloé's best-selling bags. Even though Waight Keller’s family moved back to London from Paris in June last year, it is not expected Givenchy’s studio will be moved to London, the sources said. While some of her work, as at Chloé, will be done in London, she'll be commuting to the Paris studio as before, they said.
Analysts at brokerage Bernstein estimate Givenchy last year generated an operating profit of 16 million euros on sales of 202 million and while leather goods had performed relatively strongly, the last two to three ready-to-wear collections had not sold so well.
Givenchy’s CEO Philippe Fortunato added in a statement: “The teams join me in warmly welcoming Clare Waight Keller into the Givenchy family. I am very excited to see Clare bring her singular sense of elegance and modernity to Givenchy. By exploring our Maison’s 65 year (sic) heritage and the outstanding Savoir-Faire of its Ateliers, I am convinced Clare will help Givenchy reach its full potential."
Fortunato joined Givenchy in 2014; where the regime of Tisci witnessed an enormous amount of executive turnover. CEOS came and went – including Marco Gobbetti, Fabrizio Malverdi and Sebastian Suhl.
After a triumphant finale in Paris earlier this month with a “psychedelic optimistic” collection Waight Keller told FashionNetwork.com: “I am off tomorrow, back home to World’s End,” referring to the district on the King’s Road.
Looks like not for long Clare.
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