This week, the world said goodbye to fashion royalty when Hubert de Givenchy, French fashion icon, sadly passed away at the age of 91. Givenchy was a symbol of romantic elegance and French haute couture for decades. We’re taking a look at his life, and the important legacy he leaves behind.
Hurbert de Givenchy was born in Beauvais, France, on 21st February, 1927, to an aristocratic family. His noble roots meant he was destined for law, but at a young age he began pursuing his passion for clothes. He moved to Paris in 1944, and studied art at the École Nationale Supérieure de Beaux-Arts. At only 17, he began as an apprentice for designer Jacques Fath. Following this job, he worked for other famous French couture houses such as Robert Piguet, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Lucien Lelong.
In 1952, he opened his own design house and his first show was a hit immediately. Givenchy was only 24. In his first collection, he showcased the iconic “Bettina blouse,” – a white cotton shirt with black embroidered flamenco ruffles- a tribute to his original muse Bettina Graziani. Graziani was Paris’s leading model at the time, and she joined Givenchy as director of public relations, saleswoman and model. In later collections, his designs included elegant evening gowns, tailored suits, and feminine hats. The Givenchy house became known for Parisian chic.
Soon after Givenchy set up his fashion house, he caught the eye of world-famous actress, Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn was a quickly rising star, and she fell in love with Givenchy’s youthful designs. She requested he create the looks for her 1954 movie “Sabrina.” Following this, Givenchy went on to make clothes for nearly all of Hepburn’s movies and in the process he shaped her iconic image which we still admire today.
In 1961, in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, the pair made fashion and cinematic history with Hepburn’s style. Her character, Holly Golightly, walks down Fifth Avenue to a jewellers wearing oversize sunglasses, chunky sparkling pearls, long evening gloves and a slender, shoulder-baring black Givenchy dress. This “little black dress” is a monumental garment in the 20th Century. Hepburn wore Givenchy’s designs in other famous movies like “Funny Face,” and “How to Steal a Million.” In 1993, when Hepburn died, she left 25 of her dresses to Givenchy, many of which he loaned to museums.
As well as Hepburn, Givenchy created clothes for a number of famous woman throughout his career. First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Prince Grace of Monaco, Wallis Simpson, and Elizabeth Taylor. His designs were sought after, and they became emblematic of couture houses in postwar Paris who created personal relationships with their customers and designed entire collections with specific women in mind. Givenchy forever created clothes that were timeless, elegant and ladylike.
Photo by pOverlord
Another important relationship for Givenchy was his long-standing friendships with Cristóbal Balenciaga, a Spanish couturier and Givenchy’s creative idol. In 1959, Givenchy moved his atelier across the road from Baleciaga’s studio and the two enjoyed a creative relationship for over a decade. Givenchy’s style became more romantic, with lavish embroidery and creations like the chemise and the sack dress. Givenchy was even the founding chairman of the Cristóbal Balenciaga Foundation, which opened a museum dedicated to the Spanish designer in 2011.
He received many awards, included the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1983 as well as the lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers in America in 1995. In 1970, Hubert de Givenchy was also chosen for the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame. In 1995, Givenchy retired from his company, which has since been headed by top designers like Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald, Riccardo Tisci, and Claire Waight Keller who is still serving as artistic director today. The Givenchy house still dresses the star of today, with Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot donning a luxurious, sparkling Givenchy gown at the 90th Academy Awards.
After his retirement, Givenchy remained active in the arts, working as an antiques ecpert for Christie’s, the Château de Versailles, and the Louvre Museum. As well as this, he managed the French brand of the World Monuments Fund for a number of years. Many have admire Givenchy’s elegance, and polished style in every aspect of his life, including his residences. In his grand chateau in France, the 16th-century Manoir du Jonchet, the gardens are designed with the same delicacy as his clothing. Many of his residences have famous, high-end works of art hanging on the walls.
On the news of his death, the Givenchy house tweet the loss of their founder, and fashion icon: “The House of Givenchy is sad to report the passing of its founder Hubert de Givenchy, a major personality of the world of French Haute Couture and a gentleman who symbolized Parisian chic and elegance for more than half a century. He will be greatly missed.”
Givenchy eyewear carries the same elegant Parisian style as all his collections. Here are some of our favourite pieces from Givenchy…
These sunglasses are harmony of classic and modern. The black pilot frames are transported into a modern urban style with the three black stars on each lens and the industrial brow bar. They show Givenchy having fun with fashion like he always did.
These Givenchy sunglasses are elegant and daring. The classic black frames are timeless, and are given a sophistication edginess with the studded brow detailing. They are truly Givenchy – Parisian chic.
It´s always devastating news when one our heroes dies, but Hubert de Givenchy has left a long-lasting and important legacy in the fashion industry, as well as in the arts world in general. The Givenchy brand is now headed by Claire Waight Keller, and she continues to create elegant and chic designs in every collection.