Did Clare Waight Keller leave Givenchy because ‘the Meghan Effect’ was overblown?

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Last month, Clare Waight Keller stepped down from her role at Givenchy. She was artistic director, meaning she designed for the label but, more than that, she was shaping the creative vision of the House of Givenchy during her tenure. While Givenchy used to be synonymous with the impossibly beautiful couture designed by Hubert de Givenchy, in recent years, the house does not have the same reputation, let’s just say that. From 2005 to 2017, Givenchy was helmed by Riccardo Tisci, who arguably brought the house into the modern fashion conversation, but did so at the expense of Givenchy’s reputation as a top-line couturier. In my opinion, Tisci did irreparable harm to the label, especially when it came to the Kardashianification of style (Tisci was close to Kimye and seemed to design a lot of stuff with them in mind). Clare Waight Keller was supposed to take Givenchy back to its graceful, classic look. But she didn’t really succeed. And now, of course, “people” are blaming… the Duchess of Sussex?

Over the past several years, fashion brands big and small have enjoyed huge spikes in search, sales and social media followers whenever the Duchess of Sussex wears their designs. But for the star’s wedding dress designer Clare Waight Keller, who left her role as Givenchy’s artistic director in April after just three years at the helm, it seems the Meghan Markle effect wasn’t quite enough.

Waight Keller became a household name in May 2018, when Markle married Prince Harry wearing a simple, classic white boatneck gown with three-quarter-length sleeves she had designed. At the time, she was only one year into her role at the iconic French fashion house beloved by Audrey Hepburn, and the first woman to ever serve as its artistic director.

But while most royal fans loved Markle’s wedding dress, it seems the buzz surrounding the brand didn’t translate into sales. The New York Times recently called her collections “erratic,” explaining that “though her couture telegraphed a rigorous elegance that bridged heritage and modernity … she struggled to give her ready-to-wear a signature.”

While Waight Keller’s exorbitantly expensive couture was praised by many fashion critics, the Times added, “critical brand introductions for the house in the accessibly priced category — sneakers and sweatshirts — were met with lukewarm reception when compared to rival houses like Dior or Gucci.”

Despite the fact that Markle has driven her fans to buy everything from under-$50 H&M dresses to four-figure looks by Victoria Beckham, then, it seems her followers may not have been moved (or, more likely, financially able) to splash out thousands of dollars on Givenchy goods. But that hasn’t hurt the bond between the Duchess and her favorite designer; Waight Keller recently opened up on Instagram about their “incredibly beautiful relationship of trust and intimacy,” and praised the Sussexes for being “incredibly inclusive, genuine and generous.”

So while we may not see Markle starring in a Givenchy campaign anytime soon, and Waight Keller has not yet announced her next move, don’t count out the possibility of a future collaboration between the pair.

[From Page Six]

I can’t say I was really a fan of most of Keller’s collaborations with Meghan – I liked and defended Meghan’s wedding gown, but I thought using Keller and Givenchy as a go-to royal couturier was somewhat tone-deaf and not all that productive. I’ve always felt the same way about the Duchess of Cambridge’s use of the Alexander McQueen atelier (and designer Sarah Burton) as her go-to for couture to be tone-deaf too. Kate uses Burton and Meghan uses Keller to create one-of-a-kind pieces which, for the most part, are not that great and could easily be purchased or produced cheaper somewhere else.

All that being said, of course Keller’s mixed results at Givenchy are not Meghan’s fault in any way, shape or form. I would argue that it’s not even entirely Keller’s fault – Tisci did such an overhaul on the fashion house, anyone coming in after him would have had a hard time. Meanwhile, Tisci is at Burberry now, having taken over from Christopher Bailey. I would love to see Bailey at a house like Givenchy!

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21 Responses to “Did Clare Waight Keller leave Givenchy because ‘the Meghan Effect’ was overblown?”

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  1. Valiantly Varnished says:

    They will find a way to blame Meghan for anything. She’s the new “Thanks Obama!”
    Did it rain today? “thanks Meghan!”
    Did they stub their little toe? “thanks Meghan!”
    Im sure global warming and Covid-19 are somehow her fault too.

  2. Jessica says:

    Claire Waight Keller was a great fit at Chloé (though I also love the current artistic director, Natacha Ramsay-Levi), which is easily my favorite luxury fashion brand. She was not great at Givenchy, and neither was Tisci. I agree that using Givenchy as a go-to royal brand was pretty much a bust (and agree with your same criticisms of Kate’s use of the Alexander McQueen label). She and Meghan obviously have a tight bond and so Meghan’s loyalty to Givenchy probably stemmed from that as much as anything. I wish Claire success in whatever she does next. Givenchy not being a great fit for her talents has nothing at all to do with Meghan, but we should know by now that Meghan is responsible for all the world’s ills. She probably caused every war in history and personally developed the coronavirus herself in her secret germ warfare lab.

    • sarah says:

      But the article doesn’t blame Meghan? It just says even though Keller had her high profile designs worn by Meghan (and the visibility boost that entails) she still wasn’t successful because her RTW didn’t connect with buyers?

  3. RedRoyal says:

    Stop blaming Meghan for everything.

    • sandy says:

      Part of the reason Meghan is in this conversation is Givenchy did not attract any other notable patrons. The labels most notable design is Meghan’s wedding dress (which I think needed one more fitting—I look back at my own wedding dress and think I also needed an additional fitting, but I didn’t have a house designing a dress especially for me, either). Added with meghans presentation at the British fashion awards and Clare is identified with Meghan, for better or worse.

  4. BayTampaBay says:

    I always thought Victoria Beckham and Meghan were good fit.

  5. line says:

    I hate Tisci’s work for the Givenchy house because he completely killed everything he did the soul of the Givenchy house, and the collaboration with the Kardarshians was just one last nails on the coffin of the Givenchy label. You can modernize a haute couture house but you must not forget the essence of the brand. Clare Waight Keller did a much more coherent job than Tisci, but her creations were not exceptional because they were far too basic. I think she would be better for brands like Chloé, Kenzo …

  6. Laalaa says:

    It’s so interesting. I was SO underwhelmed with Meghan’s wedding gown when I first saw it. I was like – that’s it?
    But then a few months later something switched in me and now every time I see it I am mesmerized by it. It’s such a beautiful gown! The lines are so clean and deceptively simple. And it really suited her.

    The fashion business now is very difficult. I think the main problem with it is that most of the “fashion houses rules, attitude and behaviour” are really outdated.

    • L4frimaire says:

      I loved her dress from the moment I saw it on her. The fabric was beautiful and loved the simplicity of the design. The neckline was just gorgeous.

  7. Sofia says:

    So Keller leaving Givenchy is Meghan’s fault? What else shall we blame Meghan for? Assassinating JFK? Trump winning the election? Coronavirus?

  8. Amy says:

    OMG NO BAILEY at Givenchy!!! Bailey is terrible and beyond basic he can’t ruin a brand like Givenchy.

    She never seemed to fully understand the brand of Givenchy, that being said she did have some beautiful designs. I liked Meghan’s wedding dress although it did not fit well.

    • SomeChick says:

      The fit was fine. Not everything has to be skintight. It’s called “ease” and it is what allows you to sit down when wearing nonstretch woven material.

      I get so tired of hearing “it didn’t fit” just because there was ease. It’s a design choice and it’s possible that the material required it. She’s not a real housewife or a Kardashian. She’d have looked terrible (and been criticized up one side and down the other) for being “too sexy” or people would have said it was “too tight.” It was a beautiful, appropriate, demure formal gown. It looked gorgeous on her. I can’t imagine she couldn’t have had it tailored differently if she and the designer wished to do so.

      • Mary says:

        There is a photo of Audrey Hepburn wearing a Givenchy wedding dress and the fit is similar to Meghan’s wedding dress. Fashions change as do people’s preferences on fit. Just because Meghan’s dress had positive ease does not mean that it is not well-tailored. Kate has things tailored to no or negative ease. I could never do that. I want to be able to eat in a dress!

      • sandy says:

        Except Meghan’s tailoring is consistently off, and distracts from what would otherwise be a lovely look.

        I’m thinking of the Lion King premier as an example, where the dress was so tight at the neck the netting looked strained. The last green dress we saw her in (sorry, can’t remember the church event name) was lovely except for the tailoring which was so tight it doubled itself at the waist. Other times like Wimbledon her fit was too big, like she dressed for an editorial but it didn’t quite work when she had to move.

      • Mary says:

        @sandy, we’re talking about the wedding dress here.

  9. Becks1 says:

    I mean, are people turning out in droves to buy Alexander McQueen solely because of Kate? I’m going to say no, just because of financial constraints. I liked a lot of what Meghan wore from CWK/Givenchy, including her wedding dress, but its way out of my price range so that’s all I did….like it. The fact that they are twisting this into somehow Meghan’s fault despite the scathing comments from the NYT…..

    just….the power of this woman. People want to make everything about her.

  10. S808 says:

    When Meghan wears other brands (Outland Denim, for example) they get elevated so I don’t believe for a second this is her fault. I loved Meghan’s wedding dress on sight and still do. It’s classic and timeless. Paired with the bandeau tiara *chefs kiss*

  11. L4frimaire says:

    This is a bit of a reach. I loved Meghan’s wedding gown but don’t think it’s her job to carry house Givenchy. A lot of the Givenchy clothes were pretty uninspired and the house has been struggling since Hubert Givenchy stepped down. Alexander McQueen was at the helm back in the early 2000s and he was let go from it because couldn’t make it work. So many fashion houses have had so much design talent turnover in the last decade. Dior, YSL,Gucci, Chloe, Vuitton, RL, have hired designers who haven’t lasted that long at the helm or have left by mutual agreement. Even stars like Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs, Hedi Slimane, and Alexander Wang have left big houses. One thing Waight Keller failed to do was capitalize the name recognition brought to the brand with her work with the DoS. She didn’t leverage accessories like an IT bag, which are the house money makers, or create buzz or a signature look. Nor was she a couture architect in the way that older (but not that old) designers like Galliano, Gualtier or LaCroix were. They were both large personalities and design technicians. You could see the execution in their designs. Can’t do that these days. These days, these fashion conglomerates want impact and turn around for a brand after a few collections. The share holders want results and sales and she couldn’t deliver on that. This is inside fashion news so Meghan Markle should only be a blurb mention as a famous client, not the driver of the story. Waight Keller is just another victim of global fashion restructuring and corporatization.