French fashion icon Givenchy dies at 91

News 13/03/2018

French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, an aristocrat who founded the house of Givenchy in the 1950s and becoming famous for dressing the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly, has died at the age of 91, it has been announced.

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 glamour. He designed the black dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

"The House of Givenchy is sad to report the passing of its founder Hubert de Givenchy, a major personality of the world of French Haute Couture and a gentleman who symbolised Parisian chic and elegance for more than half a century. He will be greatly missed," a statement said.

Givenchy's longtime partner and former haute couture designer Philippe Venet, also announced his death, saying that it was "with huge sadness that we inform you that Hubert Taffin de Givenchy has died" in his sleep.

Givenchy was part of the elite cadre of Paris-based designers, including Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, who redefined fashion after World War II.

A towering man with impeccable manners, he founded his label in 1952, selling it to luxury conglomerate LVMH in 1988.

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 metres tall, was drawn to fashion and design from a young age, moving to Paris to study at 17.

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."

After his phenomenal debut, Givenchy went to New York where among his American customers were Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore one of his designs to President John F Kennedy's funeral in 1963, and movie goddess Grace Kelly, who became Princess of Monaco.

Perhaps his most loyal muse was Audrey Hepburn, who sported his dresses for three decades after they struck up a working relationship in 1963.

As well as Breakfast at Tiffany's, Givenchy clothed Hepburn in Sabrina, Funny Girl, Charade, How to Steal a Million and Bloodline.

Givenchy branched out into menswear soon after opening his fashion house, and in 1970 he began designing furnishing fabrics. He also designed interiors for several hotels as well as a limited edition of Ford Continental cars.