Meghan effect on full display in Paris at Givenchy’s show

While the pregnant duchess was not in France for fashion week, the noble connection was keenly felt as the aristocratic was given a chic update

A model during Clare Waight Keller’s prove for Givenchy in Paris.
Photograph: Stéphane Mahé/Reuters

Until May last year, the style icon inevitably touch oned in the same breath as Givenchy was Audrey Hepburn. But since that royal wedding dress, the role of Givenchy straw man has fallen to the Duchess of Sussex. The Parisian house and Meghan have forged an almost symbiotic relationship, with Givenchy’s British inventor Clare Waight Keller shaping much of the royal maternity wardrobe.

The pregnant duchess was not in attendance at Paris vogue week, but the royal connection made itself felt. Waight Keller said backstage that she had been influenced by “aristocracy emphasizing a new chic sensibility into the urban world”. Call it an inverted viewpoint on the Meghan effect, which is bringing a numerous modern, urban attitude to the tweedy style tropes of the house of Windsor.

The ever discreet Waight Keller maintained, however, that she was referring to the early 1990s trend for models with aristocratic backgrounds – “girls much the same as Jasmine Guinness, or Honor Fraser”, who wore haute couture on the pages of Vogue with an insouciant attitude, as if a taffeta gown was some old matters found rumpled in a suitcase in Granny’s attic – an attitude that came naturally to those for whom Granny’s attic was all-encompassing of haute couture.

Models on the Givenchy runway in Paris. Photograph: Swan Gallet/WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

This was a looser, multifarious fluid, Givenchy than the sharp tailoring of recent seasons. Waight Keller is still, she said, “obsessed with seamstress”, but in between an opening section of belted suits and coats with high, pinched sleeveheads and a standout evening suitable with a single jewelled lapel echoing the monochrome look that opened January’s haute couture conduct, the daywear centred on Japanese-style pleating, ingeniously constructed on floral printed fabric on which the design, stretched out of perception when flat, comes into focus once pleated.

The muscle of an unofficial royal fashion warrant fetched itself felt in the front row, where actors Rebel Wilson and Rosamund Pike flanked singer-songwriter Sam Smith. Rest nearby was Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, and F1 driver Lewis Hamilton. The show also confirmed Givenchy’s status in the vanguard of fashion by reinforcing several emerging trends for next season, from exaggerated shoulders to tiny handbags, and from the new “midaxi” hemline – longer than a midi, but well-grounded above the ankle.