The first Givenchy collection in 1952 immediately launched Givenchy’s name, particularly popular was the ‘Bettina’ blouse named after the then top Parisian model and muse of Givenchy, Bettina Graziani. This high-necked blouse with ruffled sleeves has become a fashion classic and was used as a symbol for the ‘Galleries Lafayette’, one of Paris' top department stores. An incarnation of the blouse regularly features in modern Givenchy collections.
In 1953 he met his ultimate muse, Audrey Hepburn, and forged a relationship that would last 40 years. The story is fondly told as Monsieur de Givenchy receiving the ‘wrong’ Hepburn with Audrey arriving instead of the better known Katherine. Hepburn would go on to wear his designs in many of her most beloved roles transforming her from a charming gamine young actress into a style icon. Most famous were ‘Funny Face’, ‘Charade’, ’Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ and ‘Sabrina’ for which the best costume Oscar was controversially collected by Edith Head despite Givenchy having designed most of Hepburn’s wardrobe.
In 1954 Givenchy became the first major designer to present a ready-to-wear line, entitled ‘Givenchy Université’ and this furthered the designer’s reputation for producing chic clothing for the young Paris elite.
Givenchy also became the first designer to show his collections simultaneously to clients and the press, sowing the seeds of fashion shows as we know them today.
1957 saw the launch of the first Givenchy fragrance ‘L’Interdit’, making Audrey Hepburn the first actress to be associated with a perfume and enabling Givenchy to break into the lucrative US market.
The little black dress which Audrey Hepburn wore in the 1961 film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ has become arguably the most well known dress of all time. Like Chanel before him, Givenchy had created a little black dress that defined an era and inspired generations of women.
Realising that the 1960s more relaxed attitude and jet set lifestyle required more streamlined attire, Givenchy raised hemlines, simplified shapes and designed the iconic ‘bag’ dress, a style that has become synonymous with 1960s fashion.
Givenchy founded his menswear line ‘Gentleman Givenchy’ in 1973 and throughout the 1970s and 1980s the brand branched into many different areas from cosmetics to car design.
Givenchy sold his fashion empire to LVMH in 1988, which at that time owned Dior, Lacroix and Kenzo. He finally retired in 1995 passing the baton to John Galliano who only stayed for one season before moving to the head design position at Dior.
From 1996 until 2001 the head designer position was filled by Alexander McQueen, the enfant terrible of London fashion. McQueen immediately caused a stir, calling the founder of the label irrelevant and creating a critically and commercially unsuccessful first Givenchy collection. He later toned down his rebellious streak but his gothic anti-establishment style never sat well at Givenchy, he terminated his contract in early 2001.
While simultaneously creating his own controversial fashion line, Alexander McQueen produced more sober yet still fiercely tribal collections for Givenchy, using models like Naomi Campbell and Karen Elson to create startling images. His critically acclaimed SS99 collection began with double leg amputee model Aimee Mullins and ended with Shalom Harlow being slashed with paint by sinister robotic arms.
McQueen was followed by Julien MacDonald, 2001’s British Designer of the year who, although a professed fan of Givenchy, also struggled to find his feet and merge his colourful flamboyant designs with Givenchy’s heritage. When MacDonald left the company in 2005 LVMH controversially appointed the unknown Italian Riccardo Tisci.
Tisci’s first Givenchy collection was couture AW05 and was described as “less aggressive than McQueen and less vulgar than Macdonald. (Tisci) studiously avoided references to Audrey Hepburn, who, however lovely in her time, has become a bit of a house cliché”.
His first runway collection for SS06 was a somewhat faltering first step, with Tisci struggling to find his feet and producing a high concept yet confusing collection of stark mainly black and white designs.
For his second runway collection in AW06, Tisci stuck to a more well trodden path, paying homage to Hubert de Givenchy but going against the then trend for sombre austerity and introducing a level of playfulness with tucked knits and splashes of red.
By SS07 Tisci was becoming known for his re-working of the little black Givenchy dress along with his use of gothic and subtle traces of S&M styling. Notable in this collection were ethnic geometrics and tribal influences along with fringing and leather breastplates, dog collars, thigh high cutout boots and high shine Givenchy shoes.
In late 2007 the Nightingale bag was launched, pre-empting the utility trend. This large grown-up yet relaxed Givenchy handbag rapidly rose to fame thanks to its classic yet modern look. It has been seen on the arms of stars such as Heidi Klum and the Olsen twins.
In 2008 Tisci’s duties were expanded to include the Givenchy menswear line, putting him in design control of the entire brand. This marked Tisci’s departure from his earlier high concept collections to a more audience and critic friendly runway format.
Following on from Jean Paul Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana, Tisci designed a selection of costumes for Madonna’s 2008 ‘Sticky & Sweet’ tour.
By 2008 the label was becoming known for its highly covetable Givenchy shoes. At the forefront of this trend was the gladiator sandal and boot, which was spotted on a range of celebrities from Gwyneth Paltrow to Rihanna.
For the AW08 show Tisci firmly established his design signature of elegantly tailored jackets and slick dresses with a nod to minimalism, punk, tribalism and futurism. The collection was punctuated by a series of must have crisp cotton blouses, a Hubert de Givenchy trademark, and black patent wedge boots with modernistic Velcro fastenings.
With his SS10 Couture collection Tisci had really found his stride. The collection marked the re-emergence of Givenchy as one of the top shows in the Paris timetable. Tisci’s well cut and flattering collections featuring graphic, expertly proportioned draped dresses, jackets and flattering trousers have been steadily increasing acclaim for all areas of the Givenchy atelier. Going against the general trend in a rapidly decreasing couture market, by 2010 Tisci had helped gain the couture atelier an increase in customers from 5 to 29 which is a huge surge in popularity.
The AW10 ad campaign caused a stir by featuring Tisci’s long term muse and noted transsexual Lea T, making her a catwalk star overnight and garnering much media attention for the label.
For the SS11 Couture line he developed his incredibly intricate designs from AW10 Couture producing a distilled collection of 10 Givenchy dresses with astonishing amounts of detail. It was said that one dress took 2,000 hours to cut and 4,000 hours to sew. Layers of laser cut chiffon and thousands of sequins and pearls were used to create pieces inspired by the dancer Kazuo Ohno, with the space age headgear and accessories inspired by Japanese robots. Fashion forward Cate Blanchett wore Givenchy couture to the 2011 Oscars gaining many column inches.
Tisci created headlines focusing on his diversity and originality once again by using albino model Stephen Thompson in the SS11 RTW and menswear campaigns.
The ‘Pandora’ Givenchy handbag acquired a huge celebrity following thanks to its unusual shape, elegant good looks and practicality; fans include Kate Beckinsale, Christina Ricci and Liv Tyler.
In a sidestep from fashion, Tisci designed the graphic gothic cover for his friend Kanye West’s single ‘H.A.M’ featuring his trademark gothic undertones.
‘Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy’ was a 2011 French language documentary featuring archive footage and intimate interviews in which the aged designer told of his gentle disdain for the lack of style in today’s fashions. Alexander McQueen famously did not get on well with his illustrious forbear, however Givenchy was known to think of Christóbal Balenciaga as his hero.
Tisci curated the entire ‘Visionaire’ 60th anniversary edition in March 2011, on one of his favourite subjects, religion. He said his proudest achievement was persuading Helmut Lang to participate “He’s my God”.
Amid huge media speculation of a move to Dior, Tisci showed a confident and concise Givenchy collection for AW11 further developing and continuing his gothic theme, injecting it with hints of S&M and 1980s influences coupled with the repeat use of panther imagery. As in previous seasons one key silhouette was played with throughout the collection; slim-line jackets were pared with tight pencil skirts in sheer fabrics and accessorised with already covetable gold tipped stilettos, fierce spectacles and panther eared caps.