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Hubert de Givenchy, fashion legend who popularized “little black dress,” dies at 91

March 12, 2018

Mr. Givenchy was head of his eponymous house from its founding in 1952 to his retirement in 1995. Image credit: Givenchy


French fashion house Givenchy's founder Hubert de Givenchy died over the weekend, as confirmed by the brand and Mr. Givenchy's family.

Mr. Givenchy was a legendary figure in the fashion world and one of the most visible designers outside of fashion as well thanks to the publicity he gained from designing some of Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic outfits in films such as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “How To Steal A Million.” Mr. Givenchy died at his home in Paris, though no further details were given.

Loss of a legend
Mr. Givenchy was born to an old aristocratic family in France and was seemingly destined to go into law as his family desired. But the pull of fashion was too strong and he eventually convinced his family to allow him to pursue his passions.

As a young man, he created his first designs for Jacques Fath at the age of 18. He learned his craft in Paris’ progressive fashion scene alongside contemporaries such as Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain.

Within a few years, he had opened his first store and had already begun to cause a stir in the post-war Paris fashion scene with his bold designs that stood in contrast to the conservative cuts of some of his competitors. That little store would eventually become known as the House of Givenchy.

Mr. Givenchy is probably most recognizable outside the haute couture world for the many designs he did for Ms. Hepburn, beginning with the classic film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and the famous “little black dress” Ms. Hepburn wore in it.

The collaboration and friendship between the designer and actress was well known, with Ms. Hepburn even citing Mr. Givenchy’s designs as making her job of embodying a character much easier when she looked the part.

Mr. Givenchy rose to prominence during the 1950s and '60s, making him one of the most important figures in the post-war Paris fashion scene. Many of the most iconic brands from the period are still around today, such as Dior, Chanel and Saint Laurent, and they shaped the modern fashion world.

In Mr. Givenchy's passing, the high fashion world is losing one of its most indelible architects.

Though Mr. Givenchy formally retired from fashion design in 1995, six years after the fashion house he created was acquired by LVMH, he remained an iconic figure in the luxury world and even worked as an antiques expert at Christie’s.

Though he has passed on, Mr. Givenchy’s “little black dress” as well as the daring, mold-breaking design philosophy with which he took the House of Givenchy from a small shop in Paris to one of the most prominent fashion brands in the world will live on.