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Hubert de Givenchy

Hubert de Givenchy (1927 – 2018 )

On March 13, 2018, The New York Times published an obituary for Mr. Givenchy who died at age 91 on March 10, 2018. This article contains information obtained prior to that date.)

In mid-November 2014, an Internet rumor claimed that the renowned, French fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy had died bringing dismay to his legions of fans. Quickly dismissed as false, on 17 November 2014, Givenchy’s representatives confirmed “… Hubert de Givenchy is not dead [and] joins the long list of celebrities who have been victimized by [a] hoax. He’s still alive and well, stop believing what you see on the Internet,” they said.

Another in the long list of French designers more famous for fashion design rather than the jewelry designed to adorn it, The House of Givenchy, opened in Paris in 1952. It made jewelry that featured classic designs on a large scale using gold plating, Lucite and other plastics.

Hubert de Givenchy was born in France in 1927. He grew up inspired by fashion magazines and hoped to work at Balenciaga.

At age 17, he began his designing career with Jacques Fath. He subsequently worked for Piquet, Lucien Delong, and Elsa Schiaparelli. His collaboration with Schiaparelli as her first assistant lasted four years.

When Givenchy opened his design house in 1952, his debut collection was a hit. It featured separates like long skirts and tailored blouses and included the “Bettina blouse.” In his following collections, he designed evening gowns, hats, and tailored suits. It was not long before the Givenchy name became synonymous with Parisian chic.

In 1953, Givenchy met Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, whom he greatly admired. In 1957, the two designers teamed up to introduce a new silhouette called the “sack,” a loose form without any waistline.

Accessories for Givenchy’s fashions included jewelry that was sold then, as it is now, by fashionable department and jewelry stores worldwide through boutiques. Some Givenchy jewelry is heavyweight gold and silver metals designed in simple chains with pendants. Other creations are of high quality design and also made with heavyweight gold and silver plated metals, rhinestones, glass, Lucite, plastic beads, and faux pearls.

A limited number of designer pieces were made in the first years of Givenchy’s business. He marked his jewelry and sometimes stamped it, “GIVENCHY” in the metalwork or marked it with a “G” on the clasps. Sometimes, the “4-G’s” stamp appears in a box, or the metal bears the stamp, “Paris New York Givenchy” or “Givenchy Paris New York.”

In 1953, Givenchy’s designs first appeared on the magazine covers of French ELLE and LIFE. This attracted some of the world’s most notable women of the time including Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Jacqueline Kennedy, Princess Grace, and also Wallis Simpson (the Duchess of Windsor) for whom Givenchy created special Wallis blue garment bags.

However, Givenchy’s most famous association began as mistaken identity. While he was waiting for a fitting with a Miss Hepburn, he was surprised to discover it was Audrey not Katharine. Their meeting began a forty year friendship between Givenchy and his muse.

Over the years, the actress became the Givenchy ambassador in her life and on screen including the movies, ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s,’ ‘Sabrina’ and, ‘Funny Face.’ Hepburn’s reputation as one of the chicest women in the world helped spread Givenchy’s international reputation. Together they created a new standard of modern beauty: pure lines, thin waist, small body and beautiful neckline.

Givenchy’s reputation spurred the launch of his men’s collection – Gentleman Givenchy – in 1969. His allure continues to have an impact on today’s menswear market. As his men’s lines became popular, the House’s Haute Couture collections diversified into shoes, jewelry, men’s ties, table cloths, furniture fabrics, kimonos and, in 1976, even a car, the Ford Mark.

After forty-three years of creation at his Couture House, Hubert de Givenchy retired in 1995. He was succeeded by John Galliano (January 1996), Alexander McQueen (October 1996) and Julien MacDonald (March 2001). From December 2003 to late 2006, British tailor Ozwald Boateng was the creative director of Givenchy Homme.

In March 2005, Riccardo Tisci, an Italian designer in his late 20s, was appointed Givenchy’s creative director of all women’s collections (Haute Couture, ready-to-wear, and accessories.) After launching designs of his own, in February 2008, Tisci was renewed his role of Givenchy’s women’s creative director and for the men’s collections as well.

As of this writing, Hubert de Givenchy is a division of Europe’s largest luxury products manufacturer, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), which is owned and operated by Bernand Arnault through the investment company, Financiere Agache.

The Givenchy label remains on jewelry sold in fine department stores. The jewelry continues to display and offer superb design and craftsmanship even though some pieces are more affordable due to the use of cheaper materials and stones. However, other pieces with outstanding designs and higher quality stones and materials can be found at higher prices.

“Dressing a woman is to make her more beautiful—isn’t that the point of it all?”

—Hubert de Givenchy

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