Tue | May 21, 2019

French couturier Hubert de Givenchy, has died

Published:Monday | March 12, 2018 | 12:32 PM
In this 1995 file photo, French designer Hubert de Givenchy is applauded by his models after his 1995-96 fall-winter haute couture fashion collection in Paris. Hubert de Givenchy, a pioneer of ready-to-wear, designed Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in "Breakfast at Tiffany's." -AP
In this Feburary 12 1996 file photo, Hubert de Givenchy arrives with his wife, Mary, at the Council of Fashion Designers of America 1996 Awards Gala at Lincoln Center in New York.- AP
Model Romilly Collins, wears the black Givenchy dress made for actress Audrey Hepburn in the classic 1961 film - "Breakfast at Tiffany's". -AP


French couturier Hubert de Givenchy, has died at the age of 91.

"He revolutionised international fashion with the timelessly stylish looks he created for Audrey Hepburn, his great friend and muse for over 40 years," the house of Givenchy said. 

Along with Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and mentor Cristobal Balenciaga, Givenchy was part of the elite cadre of Paris-based designers that redefined fashion in the wake of World War II.

A towering man of elegance and impeccable manners, he forged close friendships with his famous clients — from Hollywood screen sirens of the likes of Liz Taylor and Lauren Bacall, to women of state, including Jackie Kennedy and Princess Grace of Monaco.

Born into an aristocratic family in the provincial city of Beauvais on February 21, 1927, Givenchy struck out for Paris in his late teens, in the wake of World War II. Couturier Jacques Fath hired Givenchy on the strength of his sketches. He spent two years learning the basics of fashion design, from sketching to cutting and fitting haute couture styles.

After apprenticing with other top names, Givenchy founded his own house in 1952.

His debut collection ushered in the concept of separates — tops and bottoms that could be mixed and matched, as opposed to head-to-toe looks that were the norm among Paris couture purveyors.

"Le Grand Hubert," as he was often called for his 6-foot, 5-inch (1.96 meters) frame, became popular with privileged haute couture customers, and his label soon seduced the likes of Gloria Guinness, Wallis Simpson and Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran.

But the client whose name would become almost synonymous with the house was Audrey Hepburn, whom he met in 1953, when he dressed her for the romantic comedy "Sabrina."

Legend has it that Givenchy — told only that Mademoiselle Hepburn would be coming in for a fitting — was expecting the grand Katherine Hepburn. Instead, the diminutive Audrey showed up, dressed in cigarette pants, a T-shirt and sandals.

Thus began a decades-long friendship that saw Givenchy dress the star in nearly a dozen films, including the 1961 hit "Breakfast at Tiffany's." The sleeveless black evening gown she wore in the movie, complete with rows of pearls, elbow-length gloves and over sized shades, would end up becoming Givenchy's most famous look.

Givenchy retired in 1995, and was succeeded by John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald, Italy's Riccardo Tisci, and its current chief designer, Clare Waight Keller, the first woman in the role.

"Not only was he one of the most influential fashion figures of our time, whose legacy still influences modern day dressing, but he also was one of the chicest most charming men I have ever met," she wrote.

Givenchy is survived by his companion, French couturier Philippe Venet.