(TORONTO, ON) – An iconic fashion legend and trailblazer, Hubert de Givenchy passed away in his sleep at his French chateaux outside of Paris, on March 10. He was 91.
Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy was born in 1927 to an aristocratic and artistic family which traced its roots back to Venice, Italy. He studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and, after having worked and trained with prominent French fashion houses, such as Jacques Farth and experimental designer Elsa Schiaparelli, he went on to establish his own fashion house in 1952.
An elegant man from most accounts, in 1970 he was named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
The Givenchy Style Evolution
While walking through the recent Dior exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, I was struck by the number of streamlined little black dresses and was instantly reminded of the work of Givenchy who, earlier in his career, had worked alongside the then unknown legends Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain.
As suggested in my recent article, Dior created a new feminine style and favoured feminine voluminous shaped dresses which were nipped in at the waist and made use of a large amount of fabric. This approach was a response to how scarce fabric had been during the Second World War as well as to women leaving their war-time jobs returning to the home. They required fewer boxy suits and more flowing outfits and dresses.
Like Dior, Givenchy also defined modern feminine style and luxury. By the time Givenchy established his own fashion house, Dior was starting to be considered by some as more conservative and Givenchy’s streamlined designs as more modern. Givenchy’s feminine silhouette moved away from billowy dresses in favour of more streamlined looks, inspired by architectural designs.
Givenchy was, in a sense, redefining feminine style and luxury.
In the early 50s and 60s, Givenchy continued to grow his brand by creating luxurious, minimalist, streamlined looks. Like Dior, Givenchy‘s clients were wealthy socialites, actresses, and royals. He counted amongst his customers Queen Elizabeth, Princess Grace, Jacqueline Kennedy, Lee Ritdziwell, Greta Garbo, Maria Callas, Diana Vreeland, Betsey Roosevelt Whitney, and Audrey Hepburn who, for many, was the face of Givenchy.
While there may be a debate on whether Dior or Givenchy invented the little black dress, Givenchy arguably made the little black dress famous. He was aided in this endeavour by his “collaborator,“ muse, and friend, Hepburn.
Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn, who gained prominence as an actress and movie star in the late 50s and early 60s, was extremely fond of the clean lines of Givenchy’s designs. The designer and actress met in 1953, during the making of the movie Sabrina.
Hepburn insisted on using Givenchy to design her clothing for the iconic 1961 film Breakfast At Tiffany’s, including the long sleeveless sheath little black dress that has become a signature of the movie and which has been called by many as the most iconic black dress of all time.
Givenchy, in time, designed his first perfume for Hepburn. This was the first time a movie star had become the face of a perfume advertising campaign and it was done as a friendship gesture and not for compensation. Of course, there were also stories about clothing gifted to his friend over the years.
In 1988, Givenchy sold his luxury fashion house to LVMH, which is the luxury goods conglomerate that owns other luxury labels such as Bulgari, Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Celine, Fendi, Sephora, Hennessey, and Moet and Chandon, to name a few. After the sale Givenchy, the man, continued with Givenchy, the fashion house, until his retirement in 1995.