GIVENCHY is the latest top luxury brand racing to open an Atlanta boutique, and they brought the home team with them. The store, which opened at Phipps Plaza on November 30, features a new collaboration with BSTROY, a brand cofounded by Atlanta natives Brick Owens and Dieter “Du” Grams.
“When you think about the cities that are important in the U.S., Atlanta is in the top five—not only speaking to the economy, but also regarding what fashion means to this city,” said Valerie Leon, president of the Americas for GIVENCHY “This is a city that loves fashion. Especially the men! You don’t see that in every U.S. city.” GIVENCHY now offers a complete range for both women and men at Phipps Plaza.
We chatted with Matthew M. Williams, the brand’s creative designer since 2020, along with Brick and Du, at the opening.
What influences do you bring to the GIVENCHY brand?
Williams: I grew up in California and moved to NYC when I was 20. I’ve spent a lot of time [traveling] between the two. The California scene was far from European fashion. I started in denim because that is what was made in LA. I also designed costumes for musicians. This allowed me to travel the world and work with photographers, magazines, etc. This was my “school.” These places and experiences formed my aesthetic and inform my version of Americana. With GIVENCHY, there are over 70 years of tradition. For me, it is finding the parts of the rich history that speak to me, pushing it through my filter, and bringing my own influences into the collections.
On the connection between fashion and music:
Williams: Growing up and working between NYC and LA, I would see the most inspiring fashion when I went out to see music. Now working with the maison, my journey in music is popping up in different ways, like working with Playboi Carti or Ethel Cain. Musicians are endlessly inspiring.
Williams: My work is a personal monologue. I am compelled to create. Naturally, I want people to feel something when they look at my work. An emotional connection is the reason we create. If the work makes others inspired or aware or whatever emotion it elicits, at least they are feeling something. That is exactly why we are here in Atlanta—to champion the city and inspire belief that young designers can stay true to their personal path. Believe in your path and your ideas and surround yourself with people who inspire you and don’t give up. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true!
On translating tradition with a future-focused eye:
Williams: I look at the patrimony [the archives of the house]—dresses from the 50s and 60s [famously worn by Audrey Hepburn] and prints from the 80s. Hints of the current collections will be informed by that tradition. I will take details from garments and re-imagine them in modern fabrics and constructions. For example, I may apply a silhouette of a dress to an outwear piece. The four G logo was traditionally used in beauty prior to my arrival, and I’ve pulled it forward in new ways. I take codes of the house that speak to me and repeat them until they are a part of a new language.
We need to respect the past and build upon it. I call it creating an advanced prototype. You put something out—it exists in the world—and then you build upon that idea. I like to learn by doing. I learned not to fear the unknown by working with [photographer] Nick Knight and SHOWstudio. Nick created the first fashion website in 2000 and was a pioneer of fashion film. I consider him a mentor.
As a futurist, how do you see the intersection of fashion and Web3?
Williams: I look at Web3 as a way of storytelling to your supporters. It is an opportunity for a direct line of communication with the GIVENCHY audience—[a means for] storytelling around the lifecycle of product or around an activation like a runway show. Supporters of the brand can engage directly. We can create new things from this dialog and keep a two-way communication. I am really new to the space, however. This is a good example of learning by doing.
What is your wish for GIVENCHY?
Williams: That I leave the brand in a healthier place than when I arrived. That I represented the house in the best way. That we had a lot of great moments along the way and inspired some people. And that we all had a good time while doing it.
On recognition and homecoming:
Grams: Having this collection here in Atlanta means the world. The world is much smaller than we once thought it was. It feels good to have our beginning recognized because we had a hard time getting the attention that we felt we deserved. We felt we had to find a way to shock people to even get on record as having [existed].
Owens: When we started our journey over ten years ago, we had limited resources in Atlanta. There were no textile miles to get fabric, no competitive market of seamstresses and manufactures, no venues to have a real fashion show. There were things we knew we needed that Atlanta could not provide at the time. We went to New York to develop relationships with the mills and multidisciplinary artists to develop our brand and move into the direction we knew we could take our brand. Coming here now, it’s like coming home with the trophy.
On brand DNA:
Grams: It is important for us to put Atlanta into the handprint of our work. We continue to want to change perspectives of what can come from this city. The GP (Georgia Pacific) building was an inspiration in the collection. Black and red, colors of the Varsity and the Falcons, are incorporated in our pieces. We love to subtly incorporate Atlanta. Atlanta has always been a part of anything happening in the creative space. There is always someone from Atlanta in the room when amazing things happen. It is now becoming more well known that Atlanta has a hand in the development of the culture.
On collaborating with GIVENCHY:
Grams: Working with a large house was a challenge at first because of the sheer size of an institution like GIVENCHY. We have such a self-sufficient operation. We are still accustomed to doing it all ourselves. We love everyone at GIVENCHY and have navigated the growing pains of ensuring the product comes out of the machine the way we intended.
Grams and Owens: BSTROY Genetics, stay tuned.