Last week, Matthew Williams showed his first collection for Givenchy, an intimate showcase of the French maison’s long-standing elegance, with Williams’ urban twist. The 34-year-old American designer turned heads when he announced his arrival as creative director of the luxury house on its Instagram page, and the story of how he found his way there is just as intriguing.
Born in Chicago, Williams grew up in Pismo Beach, in the midst of California skate culture. His first gig in fashion was a summer internship with a soccer coach who owned a clothing brand, but Williams never pursued formal design training.
His transition to high fashion started in Hollywood, with an impressive number of celebrity collaborations. After striking a connection with Lady Gaga on a night out in Los Angeles in 2008, he became the creative director of the star's creative team, known as Haus of Gaga, designing some of her most iconic looks. Through Gaga, he met more industry titans including Hedi Slimane, Nicola Formichetti, and British photographer Nick Knight, who was behind the camera for Williams’ breakout campaign for Givenchy.
In 2010, Williams left his role to work with Kanye West, first helping develop West’s first clothing brand, Pastelle, then serving as art director for Donda, West’s creative agency.
His time and experience in the music and fashion circles lead to the creation of Been Trill, a DJ collective turned men’s streetwear brand, established in partnership with Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston, and Justin Saunders in 2012. The brand made waves in Tumblr’s fashion scene, and its Canal Street store churned out an ever-changing selection of streetwear with Been Trill’s signature drippy lettering.
In 2015, Williams went solo, launching Alyx, a women’s clothing brand produced in Italy. After making it as a finalist for the LVMH Prize in 2016, he expanded to menswear, changing the name of his brand to 1017 Alyx 9SM—a tribute to his birthday, his daughter, and his first Saint Marks studio. His sophisticated, luxury streetwear became a favorite among fashion figures and celebrities alike, and he became a frequent and trusted collaborator with brands seeking to gain an urban edge. Williams notably worked with close friend and Artistic Director of Dior Men Kim Jones to put an industrial twist on the brand's Spring/Summer 2019 collection, designing utilitarian buckles for the menswear accessories. He was also tapped for a Moncler Genius collection this year and has an ongoing collaboration with Nike where he adds a high-end edge to the sportswear brand’s classics.
Now, Givenchy is the latest label to secure the designer's expertise. In June, Williams expressed his gratitude in a voice memo: “I want to say something about how honored I am to be taking over the role of creative director of Givenchy. I have worked every day for 15 years towards a single goal.”
Already shaking things up at the French maison, Williams made a statement for Spring/Summer 2021 with sleek tailoring and embellished futurism. While three-toed shoes and an exposed G-string were unexpected accoutrements, the designer's impressive track record proves that he knows how to keep fashion on its toes.