Meet Clare Waight Keller, New Artistic Director At LVMH Givenchy: Her Career, Family, & Home

LVMH has announced the appoint of its second female designer in a year to take the creative lead at one of its couture houses. Following in the footsteps of Maria Grazia Chiuri at Christian Dior, Givenchy announced Thursday the appointment of Clare Waight Keller as its new artistic director, effective May 2, replacing Riccardo Tisci. It's believed that Tisci will move to Versace. 

Chiuri was in New York on Thursday opening a major Dior presentation at Saks Fifth Avenue. On the subject of the Keller's appointment, Chiuri threw up her hands in excitement. "Yes! I'm very happy!" she said, reports W Magazine. "Another one!" And then: 

"She comes from Chloé, so I hope they appoint another woman there," Chirui said. (Owner Richemont announced the appointment of Natacha Ramsay-Levi from Louis Vuitton a week ago.) Has she ever met Keller, by any chance?

They haven't, but Chiuri added: "When I'm back, I'll tell her, 'Well done.'"

From a design aesthetic perspective, the shift from Tisci to Keller is considered to be radical for the 65-year-old French brand. Keller is known for ultra-feminity, frequently with a retro mood. The talented Tisci is synonymous with a dark, often gothic aesthetic and street edge.

Givenchy announced the appointment on Instagram, followed by a statement from Waight Keller. "Hubert de Givenchy's confident style has always been an inspiration and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this legendary house's history. I look forward to working with the teams and writing a new chapter in this beautiful story."

The former Chloé designer will report to Philippe Fortunato, CEO of Givenchy Couture, who said: "I am very excited to see Clare bring her singular sense of elegance and modernity to Givenchy. 

Keller has a flair for designing 'hit bags', a talent that has largely escaped Tisci at Givenchy's helm. Most recently Chloé’s Drew bag was a rainmaker parent company Richemont.

Bernard Arnault chairman and CEO of LVMH added: "I believe her widespread expertise and vision will allow Givenchy to enter the next phase of its unique path. I am very much looking forward to her contribution to the maison’s continued success."

The Financial Times reports that LVMH does not break out Givenchy's financial performance. 

"Rogerio Fujimori, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, estimated in a recent note that Givenchy had revenue of €250m last year, representing about 2 per cent of the group’s fashion and leather goods sales. Thomas Chauvet, head of luxury goods equity research at Citi, said: “The brand has been growing strongly in the past few years, yet its growth potential is probably lower than for LVMH’s rising star brands such as Fendi and Céline in terms of retail expansion and product diversification.”'

Clare Waight Keller Background

Clare Waight Keller in the living room PHOTO: MAGNUS MARDING FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE

Waight Keller grew up in a middle-class, Birmingham household with a seamstress mother. She studied for her BA at Ravensbourne College of Art. She gained her Masters in Fashion Knitwear at the Royal College of Art . Calvin Klein hired Waight Keller from university on the strength of her graduate collection. Waight Keller worked in New York for Calvin Klein for four years before moving to Ralph Lauren to become senior menswear designer for its Purple Label, writes WSJ.

At Ralph Lauren’s luxurious Purple Label, she got essentially a doctorate in detailing and construction. “Everything is in the detail. Ralph works in millimeters. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s an old-fashioned look,’ but there was a lot of depth to what he did, no matter what you see on the surface. He would say, ‘I only want shirts that have a 16-piece collar,’ and I’m like, Really? A collar can have 16 pieces?”

In 1999 Tom Ford brought newly-married Waight Keller to work at Gucci alongside Christopher Bailey and Francisco Costa as a senior designer in 2000, where she would remain until being appointed creative director of Pringle of Scotland in 2005. Waight Keller’s creative directorship would see the designer completely rebrand Pringle, a heritage knitwear label, to great critical acclaim as an international luxury brand.

Waight Keller’s time at Pringle was what impressed Geoffrey de la Bourdonnaye, Chloé’s CEO, and inspired him to hire her when pregnant with her third child Harrison. ”She displayed both creative and managerial maturity,” he explained.

Married to architect Philip Keller, the couple has two twin girls Amelia and Charlotte. Joshua Levine interviewed the then Chloé designer at her home in Paris for the Wall Street Journal

A French farmhouse table surrounded by 1930s bank chairs. PHOTO: MAGNUS MARDING FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE

A French farmhouse table surrounded by 1930s bank chairs. PHOTO: MAGNUS MARDING FOR WSJ. MAGAZINE

W Magazine did an in-depth on Clare Waight Keller in March 2015. Asked about her muses, the designer names: Katharine Hepburn, Marlene Dietrich and Coco Chanel.