In January Matthew M. Williams shows his first haute couture collection for Givenchy. “It’s drawn; we’ve only just started work, ”he revealed during a preview of his first live show with an audience since stepping into the house at the beginning of the pandemic. Supported by his couture claim, his third ready-to-wear collection was like a release of grandiose proportions: a massive explosion of ideas and ambitions that were bottled for too long until the cork finally popped.
Inside the gigantic La Défense Arena, Williams erected a proportionally huge oval light structure in which around 70 models with military flair were crossed and crossed. The width was the idea of Young Thug. He recorded an original soundtrack for the show (pretty catchy), and just a stadium experience would be enough. “Everyone seeing it in real life definitely contributed to what you will see today,” Williams said, and his intentions were clear.
He took on a reinforced 1940s silhouette – sculpted shoulders, constricted waists – and worked on the crafting and surface décor of each garment to an inextricable degree to add impact to the looks so you can literally see the details from across the arena could see. Tight bloomers burst into unyielding ruffles, columnar dresses were studded with thick, rustling mega sequins, and padded bolero jackets took shape through dense microplissé structures.
“The pieces are really, really crafted and complex,” said Williams, his mind already clear in the couture world. In many ways, the collection felt like a precursor to the idea of couture. It manifested itself in an eager design value, which often resulted in rigid and constricting-looking constructions such as knee-high dominatrix clog boots or tight neoprene made-to-measure suits that were worn tonally in deconstructed corsetry or implanted from the hips with determined peplums.
Working with New York artist Josh Smith, Williams interpreted his semi-abstract paintings through his own textural lens by inserting motifs of containers painted with clowns and words into the surface of his signature vulcanized jeans or creepy balloon smileys torn leggings incorporated. “Josh has a completely different aesthetic than me: lots of color and brightness. It was a nice opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and explore a new space, ”said Williams.
The creative dialogue between the two was most eloquently expressed in a number of Smith’s paintings – which Williams said portray the Grim Reaper – which were adapted into intricate knitwear and leather tops, some overlaid with filters made of sheer fabrics with similar motifs were printed, creating a kind of illusion within the styling. These looks were “just” streetwear, but they represented Williams’ passion for texture at its most convincing. At a time when streetwear designers are becoming couturiers, Williams would do well to use his couture studios for such sovereign experiments.