Givenchy Dies @91 : Five Fascinating Facts About Him

Hubert de Givenchy, the aristocratic French fashion designer famous for the “Little black dress” and styling Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy died at age 91.

Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly) wearing Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s most famous scene
Photo Credit: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

His partner, the former haute couture designer Philippe Venet, announced his death through the Givenchy fashion house, saying he had died in his sleep on Saturday.

While the legacy of his incredible fashion and designs speaks for itself, here are a few surprising facts compiled by Grazia that will surprise you about Monsieur de Givenchy himself.

1. HE NEVER INTENDED TO WORK IN FASHION

Givenchy didn’t originally begin his career in design, but rather in studying law. In 1944, When he realised law did not satisfy his thirst for design, it lead him to relocating to Paris at the age of 17.

French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy poses at the Gemeente museum in The Hague during a retrospective of the designer’s work at the exhibition To Audrey With Love. /VCG Photo

It was there he landed an internship alongside Jacques Fath and studied drawing at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the French National School of Fine Arts.

Over the years, he also worked alongside other big names in fashion, including Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli. Those experiences helped him to establish his own eponymous couture house, Givenchy.

2. HE WAS THE PIONEER OF DECONSTRUCTED CHIC

Hubert de Givenchy may have come from an aristocratic family but his start in fashion was anything but wealthy and glamourous. With little budget to produce his garments, he constructed them using shirting, which is typically used to create prototype designs before then finishing them with more luxurious fabrics such as silk.

This difference in fabric gave him an edge, as did his innovative idea of creating pieces that can be mixed and matched to build a wardrobe with greater versatility. The debut of his first collection was a huge success – buyers loved his cotton shirtings and he was soon able to repay his investors and assume full ownership of his eponymous couture house.

3. HE WAS BFFS WITH SOME OF THE MOST FAMOUS WOMEN OF HIS TIME

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Bettina Graziani and Audrey Hepburn were essentially the 1960s version of today’s influencers, and Hubert de Givenchy saw the power of dressing them. He quickly became famous for dressing celebrities in his chic Parisian clothes.

His most notable relationship was with Audrey Hepburn, whom he met in 1953 and dressed for several movies, including Sabrina and that now iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s gown. The designer’s friendship with the actress – who he once described when recalling their first meeting as “this very thin person with beautiful eyes, short hair, thick eyebrows, very tiny trousers, ballerina shoes and a little T-shirt” – endured until her death at age 63.

4. THE BROMANCE BETWEEN HE AND RIVAL CRISTOBAL BALENCIAGA WAS UNEQUALLED

Whilst Givenchy worked alongside and met many different designers, he found a source of inspiration, mentor and eventually close friend in Cristobal Balenciaga.

The pair formed what quickly could be described a fashion powerhouse ‘bromance’ throughout the ‘60s and Givenchy spoke highly of Balenciaga with high esteem until his passing.

“Balenciaga taught me everything I know,” he once said. “He taught me to care for the details, that is was not necessary to sew on a button where it had no use, or to add a flower to make a dress beautiful… no unnecessary detail.”

5. HE WAS AHEAD OF HIS TIME IN THE FASHION FEMINIST STAKES

Hubert de Givenchy focused on clothes which accentuated a woman’s beauty, opting for elegance and chic over the style of conformity that ruled the 1950s following World War Two.

His influence on fashion throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s was beautifully surmised by a fashion journalist for the Washington Post in 1995: “Givenchy has long been a classicist, one of the last of the old school of haute couture, where gorgeous clothes were made for a woman to live in, not decorate her. His clothes moved with a woman’s body, rather than restricted it.”

Valé Monsieur de Givenchy. The fashion world has lost a true great.

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