Hubert de Givenchy, one of fashion’s most enduring visionaries, died at the age of 91 on Saturday, March 10th. His death was confirmed by a company representative the following Monday.
The designer’s significant contributions to the field of fashion range over four decades, with his most notable works informing the iconic wardrobes of Jackie Onassis Kennedy, Grace Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn. His eye for sleek, romantic clothing withstands the test of time, and many of his silver-screen contributions (like the costumes for Breakfast at Tiffany’s) speak to a pared-back level of chic that survives today as the epitome of sophistication. “His are the only clothes in which I am myself,” Hepburn once said. “He is far more than a couturier; he is a creator of personality.”
After training at Cristóbal Balenciaga’s studio, Givenchy launched his eponymous label in 1952, and his inaugural collection of breezy separates – like the famed ‘Bettina’ blouse – caused an overnight sensation. The designer delighted his clients because he was less focused on trendy design than he was on the women wearing them. His glamorous, romantic notions of sophistication resonated widely throughout the upper echelons of society and Hollywood. With Hepburn as his eternal muse, Givenchy contributed to the on-screen wardrobes for Sabrina (1954), Love in the Afternoon (1957), Funny Face (1957), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), Paris When It Sizzles (1963), How to Steal a Million (1965), and Bloodline (1979).
As a contemporary of Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Mademoiselle ‘Coco’ Chanel, and other legendary fashion designers, Givenchy was one of the last remaining designers of a bygone era – one of the last links to fashion’s extraordinary “golden years”.
While he made a name for himself dressing some of the world’s most iconic women, Givenchy eventually stepped down from his maison in 1995. Afterwards, the label would see John Galliano, Julien Macdonald, Alexander McQueen, and Riccardo Tisci as successors – each making their own indelible impressions on the house archives. Presently, Clare Waight Keller, formerly of Chloé, is the Creative Director at Givenchy, the first female director in its history.
After assuming the reigns, Waight Keller personally met with Givenchy and established a strong relationship with him. In a statement released via Instagram, she remembered him by saying, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of a great man and artist I have had the honour to meet and get to know since my appointment at Givenchy. 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. The definition of a true gentleman, that will stay with me forever. My deepest thoughts are with his loved ones in this difficult time.”
In the gallery, below, Savoir Flair remembers the legacy of the inimitable Hubert de Givenchy and his tremendous devotion to transforming women into their best selves with a look back at ten of his most iconic designs.
The ‘Bettina’ blouse from Hubert de Givenchy’s debut collection, so named after his muse, model Bettina Graziani.
Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy’s iconic LBD, created for Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Audrey Hepburn starred alongside Peter O’Toole in How to Steal a Million in a wardrobe designed entirely by Givenchy.
Model Patricia Donald-Smith shows off a look from Givenchy’s Spring 1953 collection.
Jackie Onassis-Kennedy radiated sophistication in a sleek look by Givenchy for her White House portrait.
The other “Jackie” in Givenchy’s life was French model and muse Jacky Mazel, seen here wearing a design from 1954.
Jacky Mazel sports a look from Givenchy’s Spring 1953 collection.