Occupation: Fashion Designer
“Baby Doll Dress”
Hubert de Givenchy is a French couturier who entered the international spotlight in the 1950s with the formation of The House of Givenchy in Paris. His simple yet evocative patterns were made famous by the actress Audrey Hepburn, who modeled his designs in several films, photo shoots and public events.
Born in Beauvais in the spring of 1927, Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy was the younger child of the Marquis Lucien Taffin de Givenchy and Beatrice Badin. While the family name was originally Taffini, the Venetian clan was ennobled in the early 18th century and thereafter referred to by their marquisate, Givenchy. He lost his father to influenza when he was barely three years old and was thus raised primarily by his maternal relatives. His grandmother, Marguerite Dieterle Badin, introduced him to the work of her husband Jules, the artist responsible for the tapestries produced by Gobelins Manufactory, as well as her father Jules Dieterle, who designed sets for the Elysee Palace.
As he grew into adolescence, Givenchy developed an abiding interest in visual design and, upon completing his secondary education in 1944, moved to the Paris to attend the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts. Despite pressure from his household to enter a career in law, he pursued an apprenticeship under Jacques Fath before finding employment with designers such as Lucien Lelong and Robert Piguet. Towards the end of the 1940s, he became an assistant to the experimental couturier Elsa Schiaparelli, best known for her Surrealist ensembles made in collaboration with Dali and Cocteau.
Beginnings in Fashion
Givenchy established his first fashion house at the Plaine Monceau in 1952. He named his debut collection “Bettina Graziani” after the city’s foremost model, presenting a set of ensembles bolder and more progressive in cut than the conservative styles of Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain. Despite his use of inexpensive fabrics, Givenchy’s patterns were much admired by the Parisian elite, leading to an introductory meeting with Audrey Hepburn the following year. At the time, she was in France shooting “Sabrina” and wanted him to design her look for the film. His initial refusal was met with resistance and the pair eventually formed a close friendship that would change the face of high fashion, in particular after the release of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” for which he created the iconic black dress. He later developed a perfume for her called “L’Interdit” and Hepburn served as the face of the advertising campaign for free. It was around this time that he met Cristobal Balenciaga who mentored him in those early days of his career and helped him build a clientele base within the European aristocracy. Over the next decade, they collaborated on a regular basis and exchanged ideas about the female silhouette, creating epochal patterns such as the Baby Doll Dress and the Balloon Coat.
After 35 years heading the House of Givenchy, the couturier sold one part of his business to Veuve Clicquot and another to the conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey. He continued designing for them until 1995, after which he handed creative control over to John Galliano and retired from public life.
Hubert de Givenchy died in his sleep at the Renaissance chateau near Paris on March 10, 2018.
Books / Publications
“Hubert de Givenchy” by Philippe Venet
“The Givenchy Style” by Francoise Mohrt and Henry Clarke
“To Audrey with Love” by Hubert de Givenchy
“Audrey and Givenchy: A Fashion Love Affair” by Cindy de la Hoz
“Cristobal Balenciaga, Philippe Venet, Hubert de Givenchy: Grand Traditions in French Couture” by Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery and Luc Castel