Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy trained under such illustrious names as Jacques Fath, Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior. Launching his eponymous fashion house in 1952 at the tender age of 25 he became the world’s youngest couturier. His label gained renown for his simple elegant designs, which appealed to the new youth emerging from the dark war years and to the baby boomers of the 1960s. His name today evokes images of glamour, elegance, bold colours and streamlined shapes.
Although rightly revered as a classicist and true couturier, Givenchy cleverly foresaw the post war wish for a more relaxed form of chic. He predicted the trend towards a more democratic type of fashion, away from the starched haute couture of the pre-war years. When he launched his first line of Givenchy clothes it consisted of ‘separates’, simple light skirts and blouses made from men’s shirting cotton. This American inspired idea of interchangeable pieces in clean white cotton was revolutionary in the traditional world of Paris fashion. However it was also an economic necessity for Givenchy as the youthful designer was lacking in funds.
Like his idol and early teacher Christóbal Balenciaga, Givenchy dreamed of creating the perfect dress from one single line. When the two men met in 1953 they formed a unique bond with Givenchy gaining access to Balenciaga’s workrooms, fittings and sketchbooks. They regularly conferred on designs and their aesthetic was so similar that when Balenciaga closed his couture salon he referred his most valued clients to Givenchy.
The list of Givenchy dressed stars is as long as it is illustrious but notable names from the time of Hubert de Givenchy are Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis. Jackie-O, along with Audrey Hepburn, became synonymous with Givenchy’s trademark style of simple, stylish clean shapes.
“The dress must follow the body of the woman, not the body following the shape of the dress.”
Givenchy clothing was always more about line than decoration lending his pieces adaptability through the decades. As Givenchy matured so did his clients, although he continued to design the ‘separates’ that had gained him international recognition.
The label is now headed by the Italian Riccardo Tisci and after a few unsteady seasons he has found his place and settled down to designing commercially successful clothing. He has sensitively taken Givenchy’s vision and made it modern, drawing customers back to the company and gaining influential fans like Cathy Horyn of the New York Times and Suzy Menkes of the International Herald Tribune.
Tisci is almost as well known for his work outside of fashion as inside it. Much like Monsieur de Givenchy, he has worked with a range of editorials and also produces an alluringly popular line of Givenchy handbags and Givenchy shoes. He is known for his unusual and eclectic choice of models, Mariacarla Boscono has been a friend and muse of Tisci since before his time at Givenchy, and his runways are often walked by Lea T and veteran models Natalia Vodianova and Karen Elson.