“The dress must follow the body of a woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.”
Hubert de Givenchy
Loved by some of the most iconic stars of the 20th Century – from Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy (who wore a Givenchy gown during an official visit to Paris in 1961) , Wallis Simpson; Duchess of Windsor, and socialite Babe Paley to his most famous muse Audrey Hepburn.
Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy born to an aristocratic family in Beauvais, France, on February 21, 1927 studied art at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris in 1944 and worked for many other fashion designer such as Jacques Fath Lucien Lelong, Robert Piquet and Elsa Schiaparelli (an Italian designer, well known for being Chanel’s biggest rival) until he launched his own fashion house in 1952 called, “la Maison Givenchy”.
His family’s nobility stemmed from his father’s side from the 18th century, and he inherited his love for fabrics from his mother and grandmother. Although he initially considered a career in law, when he left his home town at the age of 17 for Paris, he later gave in to his passion thereby rising to the horizons of success as a Fashion Designer.
His debut collection mainly featuring long skirts, tailored blouses including “Bettina blouse” named after the model Bettina Graziani, elegant evening gowns, feminine hats and tailored suits making his name synonymous with Persian chic. In 1953, he met Audrey Hepburn, when he was supposed to dress her for her forthcoming picture, Sabrina (1954). Hepburn, arrived in a tied-up T-shirt, tight trousers, sandals and a gondolier’s hat on the day that sparked the beginning of a 40-year friendship. He then not only designed her personal ensembles but also dressed her for her other famous movies like, Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s – “The little black dress is the hardest thing to realize,” he told the Independent in an interview in 2010, “because you must keep it simple”, Charade (1963), Paris When It Sizzles (1964) and How to Steal a Million (1966).
Two years later, Mr. Givenchy met the famous designer, his idol and mentor, Cristóbal Balenciaga which led to a successful teaming up of these creative minds in 1957 introducing new silhouette called the “sack,” a loose form without any waistline. “Balenciaga was my religion,” he told WWD in 2007. “There’s Balenciaga, and the good Lord.” 1957 also saw the launch L’interdit; Givenchy’s first perfume, inspired by Hepburn. By 1960, Givenchy had begun to favor shorter hemlines and straighter silhouettes in his designs and making trendy advances in fashion.
The launch of the first collection of Gentlemen Givenchy, marked the year 1973 for the brand.
In the year 1988, Givenchy sold his business to luxury conglomerate Louis Vuitton while still designing for the next seven years until he retired in the year 1995 after launching his last collection. Givenchy was succeeded by Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Julien Macdonald, and Riccardo Tisci – now the creative director for the Givenchy haute couture and ready-to-wear collections.
After retirement he now lives in retirement at a country estate called Le Jonchet in the French countryside. Givenchy has now removed himself from the fashion world, emerging only occasionally for brief interviews or rare public talks. Earlier in the year 2010, Givenchy commented on Kate Middleton’s choice of a wedding dress from the former Givenchy designer Alexander McQueen’s label, “a lovely thought, a nice tribute” following McQueen’s death in 2010.
He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1996.