Hubert Taffin de Givenchy
GIVENCHY, Hubert Taffin de
Born Beauvais, France, 1927
The last of the aristocrats of couture, and the friend of Balenciaga, who influenced and, perhaps, overshadowed him, Givenchy is respected in Paris as a totally dedicated designer. It is said that he begins work on his new collection the day the previous one is shown. Tall, good-looking and impeccably mannered, he is a perfectionist, one whose relationship with Balenciaga was founded on such trust that he was allowed to see the latter's collections before they were viewed in public – a privilege unique in fashion history.
Givenchy began his fashion career in 1945 with Lelong, moved to Piguet in the following year, and from 1947 worked for two years with Fath. He also studied at the École des Beaux Arts and the Faculté de Droit in Paris. From 1949 to 1951 he designed for Schiaparelli. He opened his own house, with Balenciaga’s encouragement, in 1952. From the beginning it was apparent that he was a designer of lasting quality who, without gimmicks or vulgarity, would create clothes in the great traditions of couture. His clothes were elegant, refined and perfectly made. His designs for day wear were understated; his evening wear was richly glamorous. The same is true of his fashions more than 50 years later: the perfection of cut is the basis of his success. When Balenciaga retired many of his workers joined Givenchy's atelier, and with this work-force Givenchy has managed to retain a very profitable couture business in addition to his Nouvelle Boutique ready-to-wear, which is distributed world-wide.
Like virtually all designers today, Givenchy heads an empire which includes scents, furs, sportswear and home furnishings. He also has a wide network of licences. Although he is not, perhaps, one of the great innovators of Paris, his clothes have had influence, nevertheless. The gentle, small-collared suits and slim woollen dresses worn by Audrey Hepburn (for whose film. Funny Face, Givenchy designed the costumes) became a uniform for those in search of the lady-like look. It was worn by Jacqueline Kennedy and it still influences the looks of a variety of women from Los Angeles socialites to the British queen. Although he started on a shoestring in 1952, Givenchy was never in danger of failing. Right from the beginning his clothes had the stamp of quality, a fact acknowledged by the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1982, when they honoured him with a retrospective, entitled ‘Givenchy: 30 years’.
Major perfumes: L’Interdit (1958).