Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy first met Audrey Hepburn during the filming of her movie “Sabrina” when he mistakenly thought he was to be designing for the better known Hollywood actress Katharine Hepburn.
He was very surprised and decidedly unimpressed with the younger Hepburn who had arrived casually dressed in a tee shirt and sandals. They would soon become close friends though and he would become the couturier of choice for the rest of her life.
Greatly responsible for her International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame standing, Givenchy is quoted as saying, “There is not a woman alive who does not dream of looking like Audrey Hepburn.”
Born in Beauvais, France in 1927, Hubert was raised by his artist and tapestry maker grandfather. He was seventeen when he left for Paris to study at the Ecole de Beaus Arts and after a year of apprenticeship for the couturier Jacques Fath. He then joined the design house of Robert Piquet and later worked with Lucien Lelong. He worked a short time with Elsa Schiaparelli before he was dismissed when she learned of his desire to open his own house.
Only two years later he became the first major couture fashion designer to launch a luxury ready-to-wear line with one of his designs featured on the cover of Life magazine. In 1953 he felt privileged to work closely with and become friends with his idol as Balenciaga mentored the younger couturier.
Vintage Givenchy found at The Frock
They collaborated on and are considered responsible for the “sack” silhouette given to women’s fashions. Initially designing with lower end fabrics, his fashions were noted for their elegance and quality. At 25, he became the youngest designer on the Paris fashion scene.
Although de Givenchy designed for many celebrities, his professional relationship with Audrey Hepburn developed into a lifelong friendship. He was celebrated for designing the majority of her on and off screen wardrobe and designed her costumes for the films “Funny Face” and “Breakfast at Tiffanys.” A design which popularized the high bosom and sleeveless empire waistline style dress.
The white floral belted couture dress he designed for Hepburn to wear at the 26th annual Academy Awards and the black dress he designed for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” are considered two of the classic dresses of the 20th century.
He was frequently photographed at Hepburn’s side. Not only did he design for Hollywood stars such as Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Greta Garbo, Ingrid Bergman, and Lauren Bacall, he also dressed international royals Baroness Pauline de Rothschild, Baroness Gaby Van Zuylen van Nijevelt, the Duchess of Windsor, and the American royal Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Launching a men’s ready-to-wear collection in 1973, his own gentlemanly, handsome, and well dressed demeanor became the new line’s best spokesperson. In 1988, he sold his house to LVMH and retired in 1995.