By Brian Love
PARIS (Reuters)

French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, an aristocrat who founded the house of Givenchy in the 1950s, becoming famous for dressing the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Grace Kelly, has died at the age of 91, the Givenchy label said on Monday

A commanding presence in fashion from the moment he presented his first collection in Paris at the age of 24, Givenchy became synonymous with elegance and an insouciant glamor. He designed the black dress Audrey Hepburn wore in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.

His family – his father was the marquis of Givenchy – had hoped their son would become a lawyer but the young man, who stood 1.96 meters (6 feet 5 inches) tall, was drawn to fashion and design from a young age, moving to Paris to study at 17.

 

rench fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy attends the inauguration of the Cristobal Balenciaga Museum in Getaria.
French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy (L) attends the inauguration of the Cristobal Balenciaga museum in the Spanish couturier’s home town of Getaria, June 7, 2011. REUTERS/Vincent West

 

His hallmark creations, including balloon-sleeved blouses and calf-length trousers with flared hems, were hailed in their time as airy alternatives to the tight waists and artificial curves of the then-dominant “New Look” of Christian Dior.

His first collection – unveiled in 1952 – won recognition the day it was presented: Givenchy rang up 7 million francs (approximately 1 million euros) of orders, enough to allow him to pay off his backers and assume ownership himself.

 

An employee poses as she adjusts a Givenchy cocktail gown worn in the film Charade in 1963 by Audrey Hepburn, and one of the actresses personal collection to go on pre-sale exhibition ahead of it's auction on September 27 at Christie's in centr
An employee poses as she adjusts a Givenchy cocktail gown worn in the film Charade in 1963 by Audrey Hepburn, and one of the actresses personal collection to go on pre-sale exhibition ahead of it’s auction on September 27 at Christie’s in central London, Britain September 22, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

 

His interest in fabric sprang from a childhood familiarity with fine textiles at the home of his maternal grandfather, who was an administrator for the Beauvais and Gobelin tapestry industries and a collector of quality fabrics.

The designer’s father died when Hubert, born in Beauvais, north of Paris, was two years old. He and his brother were brought up by their mother and her parents.

 

“BALENCIAGA SEES NO ONE”

The young Givenchy initially studied law but, in the atmosphere of liberation following World War Two, he entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

 

 

Fascinated by Spanish-born Cristobal Balenciaga, who was at that time the dean of Paris designers, Givenchy presented himself and his sketchbook at Balenciaga’s door, only to be turned away with a curt “”Mr Balenciaga sees no one”.

Givenchy served apprenticeships with other designers – Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet and the exuberant, iconoclastic Elsa Schiaparelli – before venturing out on his own.

Of that first collection, a British fashion writer wrote: “”These dresses remind you of that first, best, glass of champagne.”

 

Keep reading …