Once upon a time the worlds great fashion designers formed an extremely closed circle of nimble fingered, white-coated craftsmen. Season after season in their tailors workshops they redefined Parisian fashion and worldwide trends. Hubert de Givenchy was one of them.

Born in 1927, at the age of seventeen Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy left his birthplace in Beauvais for Paris, at a time when the couturier business was still passed on from master to apprentice. He learned from Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet, Lucien Lelong (recommended by Christian Dior) and in Elsa Schiaparellis famous salons on Place Vendme.

Foreseeing relaxed chic and the democratisation of luxury, which together marked the end of the century, in 1952 Givenchy launched separates, light skirts and puff-sleeved blouses made from raw cotton previously reserved for fittings only. Two years later Hubert de Givenchy was the first major fashion designer to present a luxury ready-to-wear line, Givenchy Universit. More than any other, this was a designer who maintained close relations with his famous clients. No surprise there, he wanted to dress women. All women. From Paris to New York, Hubert de Givenchys fashions came out of the salons and down into the street. In 1953 one of Hubert de Givenchys designs was featured on the cover of Life magazine.

The best dressed women in the world were keen to be part of it Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlne Dietrich, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Princess Grace of Monaco and Wallis Simpson, for whom the designer created special covers, to preserve the Duchesss envied orders from prying eyes. They were made in Windsor blue.

In 1953 Hubert de Givenchy received the wrong Miss Hepburn, because it was Audrey Hepburn, and not, as planned, the great Katharine, who arrived for a fitting in a tied-up T-shirt, tight trousers, sandals and a gondolier hat. The result was a relationship that lasted forty years, with the Anglo-American actress playing the role of the designers ambassador, both off screen and on, in great classic films such as Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffanys and Funny Face.

Hepburn entered the circle of the worlds smartest women and Hubert de Givenchys fame spread worldwide. Together the designer and his muse defined a new kind of beauty: exhaustive perfection of lines, narrow hips, willowy body and swans neck .. The sixties ingenuous style was born chez Givenchy.

In 1957, Hubert de Givenchy again made the headlines by using Hepburn to promote his first perfume,LInterdit. It was the first time that an actress had allowed her face to be used in perfumery. Success was enormous, with the American market immediately won over. This was when the designers clientele became almost exclusively Anglo-Saxon.

The information era made Hubert de Givenchy a superstar fashion designer immortalised by Irving Penn and Richard Avedon, sketched by Ren Gruau and Christian Brard his supreme elegance became in 1973 the ideal example for his mens fashion line, Gentleman Givenchy. Even today that look remains a benchmark.

Having delayed launching licences on the advice of his friend and mentor, the legendary designer Cristbal Balenciaga, Hubert de Givenchy made up his mind to do so in the seventies, to ensure the lasting nature of his costly haute couture collections. The houses diversification then happened quite naturally with the designer running his aesthetes eye over collections of table linen, furnishing fabrics, shoes, jewellery and even, in 1976, a car: Fords Lincoln Continental.

Hubert de Givenchy travelled widely. From Washington to Tokyo, promotional gala to institutional exhibition, the designer saw things big. And he saw further. He handled globalisation as the perfect man of the world that he is. Givenchy was always a man of his time. In 1988, he felt the wind turn towards major groups, and joined LVMH Louis Vuitton Mot Hennessy at the very time when the world leader in luxury goods started to re-consider the way in which business is run, on the eve of the new millennium.

After retiring in 1995, Hubert de Givenchy was succeeded by young British designers. John Galliano (in January 1996), Alexander McQueen (in October 1996) and Julien MacDonald (in March 2001): three fashion non-conformists, just like Hubert de Givenchy when he first started. In 1956 Hubert de Givenchy was the first designer to present his collections simultaneously to the press and clients. Half a century later the young bloods from over the channel have successfully taken up the baton, with their colourful shows still being written about extensively as they flatter a whole new generation of couture clients.

In December 2003, the British tailor Ozwald Boateng was appointed creative director for Givenchy Homme and in March 2005 the Italian designer Riccardo Tisci was appointed creative director for the Givenchy Femme haute couture and ready-to-wear collections.

Givenchy from 1927 to present

1927 Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy is born in Beauvais, France.

1945 Aged seventeen, inspired by his mothers glossies, prompted by his seamstress cousins and brimming with youthful exuberance, Hubert de Givenchy leaves Beauvais for Paris. He begins his apprenticeship as a draughtsman for the couturier Jacques Fath.


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