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Femmes d'exception

Clare Waight Keller on why femininity has power

The woman behind The Dress of 2018, CLARE WAIGHT KELLER shot to global fame the moment Meghan Markle arrived at St George’s Chapel to marry her prince. Givenchy’s first female artistic director in its 66-year history talks fashion magic and that big day

On the power of femininity

“I like strong women, powerful women, because I think that is a good message. Personally, that is what resonates with me; I like women with a point of view, a confidence, a femininity – I think femininity is a power. I like the fact that every woman I dress can wear anything from any collection and they all look, in their own way, like a different Givenchy woman.”

On designing the dress of the decade

“I didn’t anticipate the response. I get tagged a lot as ‘the dress designer’, so of course it’s become more of a conscious thing, but I think that is wonderful, actually. I think it’s really nice that I am a woman who designed it, and that maybe I can inspire other young women to try to achieve something like that; it’s a great accolade to have and a very empowering thing. The wedding was incredible and Meghan looked beautiful, and that was the most important thing – it was all about doing something that looked absolutely perfect for her. What a moment.”

On the magic of fashion

[Givenchy women] are so easy and welcoming but they are also these ethereal and magnetic creatures, and that is so dreamy and beautiful. That is why I love fashion – to see these women incarnate something. You see [a piece] on a 6ft tall, 20-year-old girl in the show, and you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ but of course it will look amazing on her. So it is fantastic when you see it on a woman who is older, who is a normal shape, and she equally looks powerful and arresting, and still looks like herself. That is the magic of fashion and that is what I try to achieve in my work.”

On female designers

“I don’t think a lot of female designers are shouty. We are about the work and the love for it. It’s interesting, because my dad was saying to me the other day, ‘You never got into this for the money or the fame, you got into it because you just loved it. We always knew that.’ And that’s so true. People have different goals, but I don’t think that women particularly get into [designing] for the money or the fame.”

On Hubert de Givenchy’s legacy

“His legacy is incredible. He is the one who built the Hollywood relationship, it was he who started the red-carpet moment. No one credits him for that. Wwhen Jackie Onassis was at JFK’s funeral, she was in Givenchy. He did iconic moments in history. I was so glad that I was able to [meet him before he died in March 2018]. It was really interesting to dive deep into a conversation with him about what he loves and fashion now, as he was still very, very aware of what was going on. He was somewhat curious, definitely curious to meet me, and I think he was maybe a little surprised by a woman taking over, but he seemed quite delighted as well.”