Hubert de Givenchy: The Man Behind Hepburn’s $923,187 Iconic Dress

Hubert de Givenchy
French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy

Hubert de Givenchy, the French fashion trailblazer who founded the house of Givenchy in 1952, and dressed powerful women like US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly, died in his home near Paris, France, on Saturday, March 10, 2018. Givenchy became world famous after designing the iconic “little black dress” that Audrey Hepburn wore in the 1961 movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

In one of the most memorable cinematic fashion moments of the 20th century, Audrey Hepburn as “Holly Golightly” eats a pastry, drinks her coffee and gazes through the window of Fifth Avenue’s Tiffany & Co, dressed in an impressively chic outfit. Wearing oversized sunglasses, sparkling pearls, long evening gloves, and the famous little black Givenchy dress that was sold during a charity auction at Christie’s in London for $923,187 in 2006, the French designer and the Hollywood star inaugurated a brand new period of fashion elegance craze.

Audrey Hepburn, Givenchy, Breakfast at Tiffany's
Hepburn’s portrayal of Holly Golightly wearing Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s movie (1961)

Their 40-year friendship and successful professional pairing started after they met on the film set of Oscar-winning “Sabrina” in 1953. Givenchy’s lifetime-muse wore his creations in several other movies, such as “Funny Face” (1957), “Love in the Afternoon” (1957), “Charade” (1963), “Paris When it Sizzles” (1964), “How to Steal a Million” (1966), and “Love Among Thieves” (1987). Hepburn once said about their cooperation: “Givenchy’s lovely simple clothes gave me the feeling of being whoever I played.”

Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina, Givenchy dress
Audrey Hepburn as “Sabrina,” wearing Hubert de Givenchy creation. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy was born into an aristocratic family on February 21, 1927, in Beauvais, France. After resisting calls from the maquis of Givenchy, who was his father, to become a lawyer, Hubert left for Paris at the age of 17 to study at the École des Beaux-Arts. During the European fashion challenging postwar years in Paris, he managed to secure apprenticeships with the designers Elsa Schiaparelli, Robert Piguet and Jacques Fath.

Hubert de Givenchy presented his first couture collection in 1952 at the age of 24 and his final in 1995. He often shared with his interviewers: “Balenciaga taught me everything I know. He taught me to care about the details; that it was not necessary to sew on a button where it had no use, or to add a flower to make a dress beautiful… no unnecessary detail.” During his career, he branched out into menswear, furnishing fabrics designing, and hotel interior decoration. Givenchy is also credited with the first luxury prêt-à-porter line that he rolled out in 1954. He, also, succeeded in the perfume industry and became the inspirator of a limited edition of Ford Continental cars.

He was the founding chairman of the Cristóbal Balenciaga Foundation, an antique expert for Christie’s, the Château de Versailles and the Louvre Museum, and the French branch of the World Monuments Fund manager for several years. Among many other awards, Hubert de Givenchy received the “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur” in 1983, and the “Medal of l’ Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” in 1992, while he was chosen for the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame in 1970.

The Givenchy fashion house, currently owned by French luxury goods group LVMH, released the following statement: “The House of Givenchy is sad to report the passing of its founder Hubert de Givenchy, a major personality of the world of French Haute Couture and a gentleman who symbolized Parisian chic and elegance for more than half a century. He will be greatly missed.”

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