‘Givenchy Catwalk’: the new book cataloguing seven decades of pioneering Parisian style

Hubert de Givenchy to Alexander McQueen, Clare Waight Keller to Matthew M Williams, ‘Givenchy Catwalk’ catalogues every collection from the house and the designers who made them

Givenchy Catwalk Book
Left, Givenchy S/S 1996 Haute Couture by John Galliano, right, Givenchy A/W 1996 Haute Couture by John Galliano, as featured in ‘Givenchy Catwalk: The Complete Collections’ (available Waterstones)
(Image credit: Left, Getty Images: Jean-Claude Deutsch/Paris Match, right, © firstVIEW/Launchmetrics, both courtesy of Thames & Hudson)

Hubert de Givenchy once said, ‘the shortest path to elegance is simplicity’. It’s an ideal that was at the heart of everything the designer created, but in particular his very first collections, which embodied comfort and ease at a time when Paris’ other couturiers were confining the female body in impractical shapes. His looser, youthful separates were radical – in 1952, at least – and made to meet the changing desires of women in a post-war era. Simple elegance through the lens of youth, as it would happen, could also neatly describe Matthew M Williams’ vision for the house as its creative director in 2023, over seven decades on from Givenchy’s bold start. 

Mapping a journey through the 180 collections that have come in between, a new fashion book – a 500-page bible on Givenchy published by Thames & Hudson – charts the story of one of the world’s leading houses. Leaving no stone unturned, it painstakingly details each of Hubert de Givenchy’s singular collections and those crafted by his successors who, since 1995, have breathed new life into the house’s codes of innovation – from young British agitators John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Julien Macdonald, through the dark romance of the Riccardo Tisci years and the sleek glamour ushered in by Clare Waight Keller, right up to Williams’ tenure today.

Givenchy Catwalk book: seven decades of style

Givenchy Catwalk Book Collections

Givenchy A/W 1953 Haute Couture by Hubert de Givenchy

(Image credit: © firstVIEW/Launchmetrics, courtesy of Thames & Hudson)

Fashion historian Alexandre Samson and fashion critic Anders Christian Madsen are the authors behind the book’s rich texts. The former chronicles Givenchy’s collections up until the handover to Galliano, and the latter parses out the visions of the house’s contemporary creative directors. ‘The early years of the designer from 1952 to 1955 left me pleasantly surprised,’ Samson tells Wallpaper*. ‘His collections exuded youthfulness, freshness, and a delightful touch of humour, featuring trompe-l’oeil prints that still feel contemporary today.’

The book reveals how Hubert de Givenchy pushed fashion forward in the second half of the 20th century. Always unafraid to go against the grain, he was the first to position a celebrity as his muse, famously dressing Audrey Hepburn for decades, and the first to recognise the value of a logo, creating the iconic interlocking ‘4G’ insignia with artist Pierre Dinand in 1970. His enduring friendship with mentor Cristóbal Balenciaga – whom he met in New York, aged 26 – was so unusual that it would have been akin to a partnership between Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, Samson writes. 

Givenchy Catwalk Book Collections

Givenchy A/W 1961 Haute Couture by Hubert de Givenchy

(Image credit: © firstVIEW/Launchmetrics, courtesy of Thames & Hudson)

’Exploring Hubert de Givenchy's legacy has been an enlightening journey, uncovering the dynamics of his beginnings, the noteworthy partnership he formed with Balenciaga – dubbed ‘Givenchiaga’ by the press in 1958 – and the bold creativity reflected in his prints,’ he says.

Meanwhile, for Madsen, the house’s towering legacy as it stands today comes down to great style and the elusive properties of taste. ‘In all its purity, I think Hubert created one of the most complex legacies in fashion, because it reaches far beyond dressmaking,’ he explains. ‘It’s an aesthetic that came to be synonymous with sophistication and good taste, and those set ideas are hard to mess with.’

Givenchy Catwalk Book Collections

Givenchy S/S 1997 Haute Couture by Alexander McQueen

(Image credit: © firstVIEW/Launchmetrics, courtesy of Thames & Hudson)

‘The eras I have been present for have all meant a lot to me in different ways,’ Madsen continues. ‘Riccardo’s tenure was formative for me, Clare holds a special place in my heart, and I feel connected to Matthew on a generational level. If I had to pick favourite collections, it would be John’s. His genius is constantly evolving and he’s the reason I do what I do. In recent seasons, Matthew’s work has been about conveying a new elegance. It’s his own generational take on the virtues Hubert established.’

Reflecting on his experience of contributing to the book, Madsen is keen to stress the value of fashion critique as documents of a changing world. ‘I loved reading all the reviews I used during my research, some of which I’ve quoted in the texts,’ he says. ‘It really reminded me of how important it is that we continue to document the shows and not just the celebrities who attend them. That’s my hope for the book.’ 

Givenchy Catwalk Book Collections

Givenchy A/W 2009 ready-to-wear by Riccardo Tisci

(Image credit: © firstVIEW/Launchmetrics, courtesy of Thames & Hudson)

Meanwhile, for Samson, the historian hopes the book not only preserves one of fashion’s greatest stories, but exists as an object of inspiration: ‘I aspire for the book to become a reference on Givenchy. My wish is that not only aspiring fashion professionals, but also a broader audience, will read it and develop a new fondness for the house.’

Givenchy Catwalk: The Complete Collections, published by Thames & Hudson, is available at Waterstones.


Givenchy A/W 2023

A look from Givenchy A/W 2023’s collection by Matthew M Williams

(Image credit: Courtesy of Givenchy A/W 2023)

Orla Brennan is a London-based fashion and culture writer who previously worked at AnOther, alongside contributing to titles including Dazed, i-D and more.