Givenchy Fall Winter 2020 Men’s Show

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Yeshwant Rao Holkar II, otherwise known as Maharaja of Indore, was an extreme dandy of the decadent 1930s, a prince of untold wealth who lavished fortunes in the jewelry houses of Paris, and turned heads across continents with his bespoke tailoring and exquisitely fashionable wives. Clare Waight Keller caught the exhibition about him that recently closed at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, and came out impressed by “this incredible drifter through different cities, who decided to abandon India and embrace modernism.” There was something, she said, about the Maharaja’s “cross-cultural traveling” that inspired the characters who were slouching with a certain cowboy insouciance around the Givenchy haute couture salons this morning. But by the looks of them, she might as well have been talking about one of the modern dandies who was sitting in the audience instead, among them the unmissable Luke Day, editor of British GQ Style, who is never seen without his cowboy hat.

Whichever roundabout way they come at it, all menswear designers are looking at big issues to do with masculinity and, more often than not, tinkering around with whether the suit can be made attractive-slash-relevant to young men. What’s going to be the next big thing is open territory at a time when—bam!—a whole generation, introduced to brand-frenzy through the thing called streetwear, has graduated to young manhood with the knowledge that a) desirable wearables cost a lot of money and b) there is no thrill like being part of a pack, and yet just ahead of it.

Waight Keller is right in reading that post-hoodie and -ugly trainer surge as a new stretch of opportunity. She’s projected the next phase of Givenchy at young men who are “fashion” in a different sense. It’s a vibe she’s gleaned from how the impeccable Hubert de Givenchy dressed in the ’70s, and how the likes of Day and his friend Ben Cobb (the new suit-and-flares co-editor of Katie Grand’s Love magazine) dress on a daily basis and on Instagram.

So her take on tailoring is neat-to-the-body, and styled with a metal-tipped swagger leant by square-toed boots, the occasional Stetson, and a note of contemporary perversity. Showing in the couture headquarters of the house, she transferred over the latex bodysuits she’s used in women’s, inserting them as high-necked T-shirts. Oversize sweaters, worn with tailored trousers, added range.

The Maharaja reference, she explained, entered with the silver bejeweled embroidery she proposed for eveningwear. Here, it veered toward the Alexander McQueen menswear zone that Sarah Burton has been mapping out in recent times. But then again, McQueen and his tailoring is part of Givenchy history, too. He showed his final collection for the house in these very rooms. It was for women, of course. Twenty years ago, nobody imagined that men would ever be in the market for almost couture-like finery. They are now, and it’s Waight Keller’s intention to wrangle these 21st-century dandies in from the streets, the red carpets, and (who knows?) maybe even a few palaces.

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