"The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress."
- Hubert de Givenchy
February 20th, 1927 - March 10th, 2018
With a heavy heart, we regret to announce that legendary Hubert de Givenchy, founder and creator of the Givenchy fashion house, has passed away at 91 years of age in Paris, France. Fashion will never be the same now that we've lost one of the most influential designers of our time, however, we are choosing to pay tribute to Givenchy by celebrating his art and his legacy.
Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy was born on February 20th, 1927 in Beauvais, France to an aristocratic family. Givenchy first took interest in fashion when he moved to Paris at age seventeen to study at École des Beaux-Arts. In 1945, the 6'6 budding designer worked for Jacques Fath where his first designs were created. Later, in 1946, he designed for Robert Piguest and Lucien Lelong, while working alongside the then-unknown designers Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior. In 1947, he met avantgarde designer Elsa Schiaparelli and worked for her until 1951.
By 1952, Givenchy had opened his own design house at Plaine Monceau in Paris. His pieces flourished and his style was acclaimed by innovation, contrary to the more conservative garments by Dior who was also designing at the time. The concept of separates was an occurring theme in his first collection. Givenchy was 25 years old and the youngest, progressive designer in the Paris fashion scene.
In 1953, on the set of the film Sabrina, Givenchy met is life-long best friend and muse Audrey Hepburn. The two had a remarkable connection and worked together consistently throughout both of their lives. Givenchy was both her personal and professional stylist. "His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality," said Audrey Hepburn when talking about Hubert de Givenchy.
Hepburn was also the face of Givenchy's first ever perfume L'interdit. She was the first celebrity to the be the face of any fragrance and probably the last that ever did it for free, as a favour to her dear friend.
Around this time, Givenchy also met his long-time idol Cristóbal Balenciaga. Constantly inspired by his mentor and friend, Givenchy inherited his design philosophy of elegant simplicity from the legendary designer. "Balenciaga was my religion," said Givenchy. "There's Balenciaga, and the good Lord." Um... best friend goals? We think so.
In 1954, Givenchy became the first couturier to present a luxury read-to-wear line - an astonishing achievement for a designer of his age. He took Paris and the fashion industry by storm. He designed the "little black dress," worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's - an iconic, timeless piece that was a necessity to own back then just as much as it is to own now. In 1958, he also introduced the "balloon coat" and "baby doll dress," timeless silhouettes that remain in-style to this day.
Givenchy encouraged women to expose more of their legs during the day with raised hemlines. This new style was surprisingly, not seen as controversial or sexy, as everything Givenchy touched was done in an effortlessly elegant and tasteful manner. This movement served as a precursor for one of the most influential decades in fashion history - the Sixties.
Everyone who was anyone wore Givenchy. Now infamous for his feminine and elegant garments, he dressed elite and highly esteemed women from Audrey Hepburn (of course) to Princess Grace of Monaco, the Duchess of Windsor, Jackie Kennedy, Marlene Dietrich, Ingrid Bergman, and Greta Garbo, among countless others. In addition to his acclaimed womenswear pieces, Givenchy then launched his first menswear line Gentleman Givenchy in 1973.
As head of Maison Givenchy for more than 30 years, Hubert de Givenchy sold the company to LVMH, the French luxury goods group in 1988 for a reported $45 million. Givenchy remained designing under the control of LVMH before retiring in 1995.
Since then, Maison Givenchy has seen a number of different Creative Directors, each adding their own individual touches to the historical brand. Following Givenchy himself, John Galliano took the reigns, followed by Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald, and Riccardo Tisci who remained at Givenchy from 2005-2017. It has just been announced that Tisci will now takeover as Creative Director of Burberry, following the leave of Christopher Bailey. Following Tisci's departure at Givenchy, it was announced that Clare Waight Keller would take his position as CD. The first ever female Creative Director of the brand, Waight Keller spent the last six years at Chloé and debuted her first Givenchy collection for Resort 2018.
For his retirement, Hubert de Givenchy removed himself from the fashion world. He lived a private life and only occasionally emerged for brief interviews or the odd public talk. He moved to his country estate Le Jonchet, located just outside of Paris where he spent the rest of his days until he quietly passed away in his sleep.
"Mine is one of the most beautiful professions in fashion: making others happy with an idea," Givenchy once said. "I am happy because I did the job I dreamt of as a child."
Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH has announced that he is "deeply saddened" by Givenchy's death. "He was among those designers who placed Paris firmly at the heart of the world fashion post 1950 while creating a unique personality for his own fashion label. In both prestigious long dresses and daywear, Hubert de Givenchy brought together two rare qualities: to be innovative and timeless," continued Arnault.
Givenchy defined the very notions of refinement and elegance. Without him, fashion would not be what it is today. He will be greatly missed, but never forgotten. Thank you, Hubert, for giving us Givenchy and for creating such influence and inspiration in the fashion industry - your legacy will last forever, may you Rest In Peace.
By: Isabel de Carteret