A Body of Work The Nouvelle Vague and pioneering female body artists led Clare Waight-Keller to a stellar collection for Givenchy
Nouvelle Vague – the French cinema movement that spanned the late 1950s through 1960s – is one of fashion’s most referenced creative points. The visuals created by directors Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Eric Rohmer and Louis Malle among others have inspired endless collections and photo shoots. But tonight, in her Fall 2020 collection for Givenchy, the film style and the work of progressive “body” artists Helena Almeida and Ketty La Rocca during the same period, Clare Waight-Keller put a spin on the concept for one of her best collections to date since taking the reins.
Backstage post-show a jubilant Waight-Keller happily shared who these glamourous women were. “Basically, the story started with Nouvelle Vague the cinema movement, but I was also looking at artists of the same period working on themselves; Helena Almeida and Ketty La Rocca.” Almeida was aPortuguese photographer andvisual artist whose first major exhibit was in 1967 while Ketty La Rocca was an Italian artist specializing in body art and visual poetry.
“Both of them were among the first conceptual artists using themselves in their art. Helena particularly inspired me because she took clothes that she owned and then spread herself with her clothes on canvases creating these incredibly graphic shapes.”
To that end the designer attributed the “graphisms” from the show; abstract check patterns were created on silks which were layered in combos of patterns and colors on one garment but also silhouettes the big rounded shoulders on jackets or a long grey cape, oversized wrapped scarves, voluminous pleated A-line skirts or circles which were distorted in the form of floppy hats which made those fantastic hats from her Haute Couture show real life friendly. “It was all about the shapes and the silhouette for her” Waight-Keller explained.
She went on to explain the other component which was echoed in the hand printed invite. “Ketty was also someone who was very graphic; she used to write all over her hands using a lot of punctuation and letters to form her graphics. Then she built them out into installation art that was all circles, dots and apostrophes.” This was echoed in several stunning key looks; on a series of red circular patterns running alongside a long sleeve black sheath; equally captivating a blue, purple and green dress with a curved belt or perhaps in the most like for like with the art black and white on a blouse and pant look or a drop-dead white gown dotted with circular sleeve patches.
Setting the show mood perfectly was the dark night setting at the edge of Paris’ Bois du Boulogne. Smoke machines and red lights as guests entered added to the mystery. Fortunately, they were also greeted with cocktails served by waiters using old-fashioned bar carts so they could mull over the setting with a drink.
Waight-Keller explained it was in contrast to these sophisticated ladies. “Those films had glamour but there was also this sort of raw environment with lighting harsh as it was done on low budget. This environment had a bit more aggressive and experimental way to approach things” – the show music helped to mimic the films – “but then there was this beauty on the inside of it.” In this sense it was also a bit film noir especially with those strong shouldered divas glammed up at night in a group of fringe trim and feathered evening looks mainly in black and white.
But Almeida and La Rocca weren’t the only artists the designer looked to. The collection was quite personal for Waight-Keller. “Let’s say I looked at Helena or Ketty who wear their art so then, in fact if I look at myself, I am a designer and that’s my art. I put some of myself in it in that perspective because this is what I want to wear.” Or as the show notes quoted Almeida, “My work is my body, my body is my work.” And that work is on a roll.