FROM ENDURING CRITICAL ACCLAIM TO A NEAR CULT FOLLOWING AMONG HOLLYWOOD CELEBRITIES, HOW GIVENCHY HAS REMAINED AT THE CREST OF STYLE
BY KARDIA YAZMYNE WILLIAMS
It can be said that Givenchy was sourced from a long line of artistic aristocracy. Hubert de Givenchy was born in 1927 in Beauvais, France into a family gifted with inspiration. His maternal grandfather, Jules Badin, was an artist and the owner of the Gobelins and Beauvais tapestry factories, while Hubert’s great grandfather and great great grandfather were set designers, so artistry and craftsmanship was truly bred in the bone. Givenchy moved to Paris and attended École des BeauxArts, later honing skills and serving as an apprentice to such fashion giants as Jacques Fath, Elsa Schiaparelli, Robert Piguet, and Lucien Lelong. He also worked side by side with fellow apprentices Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior.
In 1952, at the age of 25, Givenchy struck out on his own and founded an eponymous French luxury fashion house. From the first, he wielded keen business savvy, as well as prowess for working with fabrics and innovating them to his advantage displaying these talents in his debut collection in part by creating a novel technique for the soon to be iconic Bettina blouse (named after his muse, fashion model Bettina Graziani), wherein he utilized raw cotton shirting, which was traditionally used only for couture fittings. The youngest notable designer in Paris at the time made a splash with the collection, which featured tailored separates with playful details like pleats and ruffles, and he quickly received critical acclaim from American publications such as Vogue and the New York Times, the latter of which proclaimed “a star is born.” Soon after, Givenchy gained a U.S. following, particularly among young Hollywood actresses and socialites, who favored his chic yet casual aesthetic a refreshing departure from the rigid designs of other luxury labels. Audrey Hepburn became an admirer after meeting the designer in 1953 on the set of the film Sabrina (for which he was tasked with creating costumes), and she later became his muse. Hepburn wore his pieces both on and off screen, the most recognizable a certain little black dress in the film Breakfast At Tiffany’s. His list of patrons expanded to include Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo, and Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran.
In 1969 Givenchy launched a menswear collection and later expanded into shoes, jewelry, and tableware. After a long and successful career, he retired in 1995, passing the title of artistic director to John Galliano, who held it for more than 20 years until former Chloé AD Clare Waight Keller took over early this year the first woman to hold the position at the maison. From Pieces from the Pre Fall 2018 Collection I Givenchy 747 Madison Avenue, Manhattan / 212.650.0180 / givenchy.com her first spring collection show, presented at the Palais de Justice in Paris, it was clear that the billowy romance of her Chloé tenure was over. Keller’s new styles were clean cut, purposeful, strong shouldered, with just a hint of Chanel esque psueudo masculinity. Parent company LVMH owners Bernard Arnault and his daughter, Delphine, told the Birmingham, UK born designer, “Do what you want,” as she recalled in a British Vogue article.
And the label is still attracting A list celebrity clientele. Actress Emma Stone wowed on the red carpet of the 2017 Oscars in a retro inspired gold beaded gown, while rapper Cardi B boasts how she’ll “Step in this bitch in Givenchy” in her song “Bartier Cardi.” Kim Kardashian West walked down the aisle for her nuptials in a slinky lace mermaid style wedding gown, and most recently, actors Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga wore Givenchy to the premier of their new film, A Star Is Born.
In March of this year, Hubert de Givenchy passed away in Paris at the age of 91. He leaves behind a design legacy which weighted substance over fluff, preferring to place emphasis on clean lines and silhouettes and expert tailoring as opposed to ornate decoration. (He once stated, in his famously abbreviated fashion, “You have to know when to stop.”)
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