HISTORY OF THE HOUSE
Born in 1927, Hubert James Taffin de Givenchy left his hometown of Beauvais when he was 17 to come to Paris. He started working at Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet and Lucien Lelong where he was recommended by Christian Dior for the position. In 1950, he became the very first assistant of Elsa Schiaparelli. Soon after, he was appointed creative director of the flagship store of the couture house located at Place Vendôme.
At the age of 24, Givenchy foreseeing the notions of cool chic and luxury appealing to a wider audience founded his own Couture House in 1952. He started with introducing his “separates”, elegant blouses and light skirts. Little did he know, at the time, that his creative ideas would be the key at the turn of the century which in turn would lead to the immediate success of his first collection.
In 1953, the first magazine covers were debuted by French ELLE and LIFE Magazine. The best-dressed women from all over the world arrived: Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Princess Grace of Monte Carlo and also Wallis Simpson, for who Givenchy created special Wallis blue garment bags in order to preserve her highly coveted orders coming from the curiosity of other clients.
A twist of fate also came in 1953. While Givenchy was waiting for a fitting with Miss Hepburn, to his astonishment it was Audrey – and not the great Katharine – who unexpectedly entered the salon which ignited the beginning of a forty year friendship. The actress became over the years the Givenchy ambassador in her everyday life and on screen – in classics such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Sabrina and Funny Face. Hepburn was one of the chicest women in the world helping the international reputation of Givenchy. Together the couturier and his muse created a new standard of modern beauty: pure lines, thin waist, small body and beautiful neckline....
In 1954, Hubert de Givenchy was the first couturier to launch a luxury ready-to-wear collection – called Givenchy Université – produced in Paris on machines imported from the US.
In 1958 Hubert de Givenchy was again stirring up attention when promoting his first fragrance, L’Interdit. Audrey Hepburn was the face of that fragrance which was dedicated to her. For the very first time a star was the face of a fragrance’s advertising campaign and probably the last time that it was done for free, only by friendship. Here was another hit. The American market was conquered. The proportion of American couture clients grew even more at the time.
As the media became more numerous, the international recognition of Hubert de Givenchy grew even more. His extreme elegance helped the launch of his men’s collection – Gentleman Givenchy – in 1969. His allure still has an impact on the menswear market today.
Givenchy’s friend and mentor the legendary couturier Cristobal Balenciaga suggested to him that he explores further licences which Givenchy strongly developed in the 1970s in order to ensure the future of the heart and soul of the house: Haute Couture collections. The company then naturally diversified into shoes, jewellery, men’s ties, table clothes, furniture fabrics, kimonos and even a car in 1976: the Ford Mark.
In 1982, a big retrospective was organized by the New York Fashion Institute of Technology to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the House of Givenchy. Visionary and discreet, Givenchy has always been of his time. In 1988 he sensed the dawn of big luxury groups and decided to become part of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
After 43 years of creation and a retrospective at Paris’ Palais Galliera in 1991 anticipating the 40-year anniversary of the Couture House, Hubert de Givenchy retired in 1995. He was succeeded by John Galliano (January 1996), Alexander McQueen (October 1996), Julien MacDonald (March 2001) and Riccardo Tisci (February 2005).