ALYX SPRING 2021 READY-TO-WEAR
Soft, elegant, considered.
Soft, elegant, considered.
Before Matthew Williams’s appointment as the artistic director of Givenchy this spring, headlines about the American designer mostly had to do with the tactical pieces he designs for his own brand Alyx. Williams is partially responsible for the proliferation of the chest rig in 2018, and single handedly made a rollercoaster beck buckle a must-have item of the late 2010s. Despite the fact that Alyx started as a womenswear brand in 2015, it was Williams’s menswear innovations that got all the praise. In this, the fashion world did a bit of a disservice to Williams and his talent. As his spring 2021 collection shows, his sensitivity to bias cuts and embellishments, and his ability to finesse a silhouette align him more with the expressive world of womenswear than the hardcore energy of menswear.
This collection, which combines both men’s and women’s pieces, is one of his most exciting at Alyx so far—a fact that is helped by the intimate lookbook images by Toyin Ibidapo. Much of the stiffness or strictness associated with his early work has been cut away, with jackets pared down to their most essential shapes and slip dresses constituting the majority of the womenswear offering. A twisting motif started in fall 2020 continues here as a silken overlay on a tank and evolves into a dress that looks as though a men’s shirt is wrapped around its bust. It’s something women will appreciate: elegant above the sternum and comfortable below the waist. Lace-trimmed skirts and tops with cinched leather busts round out the women’s-specific offering.
Williams shows an obsessive attention to detail with his menswear and genderless pieces, the highlights of which are the completely studded jackets and slim trousers, made from semilune hand-applied studs. Williams estimates that about 12,000 studs go into each piece, each of which requires six days of labor to produce. Equally compelling are the embroidered studs seen on a monochromatic pair of trousers. Artisans work up the embroidery into pyramidal shapes for three days, resulting in a textured finish. Sort of like couture? “Although couture can only be made in Paris, I appreciate the compliment,” he says.
The embellishments and embroideries are an extension of Williams’s growing interest in material development. The leather in this collection is specially treated with a resin finish for high shine. A new sneaker is 100% EVA polymer, sort of like a foam runner, while another is a mix of graduated perforated leathers. A faux snakeskin is pattern-matched from bandana to boot, and puffas are ultra slim with geometric cap sleeves hammered on with studs.
One piece Williams is especially proud of—he notes that this collection was designed before COVID-19 lockdowns and nothing was changed as it went into production—is a short-sleeved shirt jacket, a kind of throw-on-and-go solution for men between the formality of a suit and the casualness of a camp shirt. Shoppers will like this, for sure, but they may like his new leather trench and trousers more. Alyx’s buckles have been removed and replaced with a new slim metal bar to dart the waist of the jacket and calf of the pant. The pieces are roomier and simpler than the strapped and cinched looks of early Alyx. Soft, elegant, considered. Though he says he is keeping Alyx and Givenchy as separate as Milan and Paris, this all bodes well for his debut.