It’s a word that has been attached to Ms. Waight Keller, 47, through most of her career, as the Birmingham, England-born designer has methodically climbed the fashion hierarchy: from design director of men’s wear at Ralph Lauren to senior designer at Gucci to creative director of Pringle of Scotland to creative director of Chloé to, finally, Givenchy, a brand steeped in the history of French couture and Hollywood, all of it accomplished so unobtrusively no one entirely realized what was happening.
But that does not mean that on Sunday, when Ms. Waight Keller’s first women’s and men’s collection for Givenchy is unveiled — the last of three big designer debuts taking place this Paris Fashion Week, and potentially the most freighted — she does not have revolution in mind.
“I want to build an entirely new story,” she said. “I want people to think, ‘that was completely unexpected.’ ” She was talking both about the brand and herself.
WHEN IT WAS FIRST ANNOUNCED that Ms. Waight Keller was taking over at Givenchy after Mr. Tisci resigned earlier in the year, a lot of eyebrows were raised. Part of it had to do with fashion’s increasingly short memory (“But wait — she’s never done men’s wear,” was a common refrain, even though she had done it for both Ralph Lauren and Pringle).
Part of it had to do with the fact that her success at Chloé over the preceding six years had been built on a soft-focus aesthetic different from the more severely chic lines of Givenchy. And part of it had to do with the fact that, in an industry that tends to associate oversize personalities with creativity, her reticence had made her easy to overlook.
“It was a big, bold choice for them both,” said Daniella Vitale, chief executive of Barneys New York. One not without risk.
Especially in the wake of Mr. Tisci, an emotive, Instagram-savvy Italian who reinvigorated the brand by crossbreeding its Audrey Hepburn past with his own gothic sensibility and a dose of the street to make it…