Esther Traverse

21 Oct 2020

The Chaotic Neutral Energy of Matthew M. Williams’ First Social Media Campaign for Givenchy

Over the weekend, Givenchy unrolled its first social media campaign for its Spring 2021 ready-to-Wear collection. The outbreak on social media of celebrities and influencers wearing looks from the collection ignited the internet. Should a Luxury brand use a digital and amateur marketing strategy worthy of fast fashion? The industry is not quite ready to answer that question yet, as there is a clear division between traditionalists and avant-gardists fashionistas. It is not the first time this has happened.

In November 1992, Marc Jacobs presented his infamous Spring 1993 ready-to-wear collection for Perry Ellis. He disrupted the conservative good taste of American fashion by introducing Grunge into the world of Luxury. Without warning, Jacobs ditched ball gowns and feminine cuts for androgynous fits and flannel shirts.

That sudden change, fueled by the rage of the youth involved in the Grunge movement, sparked a huge controversy and highlighted the complexity of intergenerational relations within the fashion industry. Models, junior editors, and up-and-coming designers adored the collection, while old-school critics, executives, and buyers despised it. The climax of that intergenerational war happened in March 1993, at Milan Fashion Week, when iconic critic Suzy Menkes handed out “Grunge is Ghastly” pins outside several fashion shows. That war never really ended and the intergenerational gap still exists in 2020.

Matthew M. Williams’ social media campaign

Indeed, the ghosts of the intergenerational gap reappeared in June 2020, when Givenchy appointed Alyx’s designer Matthew M. Williams as its new creative director. Unlike his predecessor Clare Waight Keller, Williams doesn’t want to follow the conservative codes of the French House. He wants to dress young and authentic people: “The women and men should be powerful and effortless, equal and joyful, a reflection of who they really are — only more so. It’s about finding the humanity in luxury.”

His debut collection came out in October 2020 and, as for Marc Jacobs, some critics loathed his work, while some avant-garde editors and influencers loved the originality of his ready-to-wear pieces. The tension climaxed a few weeks later, when Kylie Jenner shared a picture with her Instagram followers of her and Travis Scott, dripping in Givenchy’s Spring 2021 collection. In her post, the almost-billionaire wrote “dress up with @matthewmwilliams @givenchyofficial <3 this collection is wow ?? congrats !!! can’t wait to see more. ✨✨”.

Then, other product placements flooded Instagram. Bella Hadid shared pictures of her in Look 1. Kaïa Gerber and Kim Kardashian, both casually posed in front of a white wall in Look 26 and 45; while influencer Caroline Daur, snapped a picture in front of her mirror in Look 52. Givenchy, a Luxury brand, used a digital and amateur marketing strategy worthy of fast fashion. GQ’s fashion critic, Rachel Seville Tashjian emphasized this idea in a Tweet: “A luxury brand using an expedited Fashion Nova seeding strategy…… treating celebrities as influencers…… truly an unusual state of affairs”. To which, Business of Fashion’s Chief Correspondent Lauren Sherman answered: “or… the Future”.

Bella Hadid in Look 1. of Givenchy's Spring 2021 collection

Influence is Ghastly

In 1992, Marc Jacobs openly rejected the lady-like and conservative house codes of Perry Ellis and more globally, of American fashion. He lost his job but found his voice and, somehow, that was everything. In 2020, Matthew M. Williams openly rejected the house codes of Givenchy and offered a new take on digital marketing. Efficient or not, the brand’s chaotic neutral social media campaign has had one positive impact: Givenchy is back on the fashion radar. The next move? Fashion critics handing out “Influence is Ghastly” pins at next year’s fashion week.

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