Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy, best known as Huber Taffin de Givenchy, was born in 1927 in Beauvais, Oise and was raised in an aristocrat atmosphere. The artistic blood was in his family veins, and at the age of seventeen he moved to Paris to study at the École de Beaux-Arts. His firsts works for the fashion industry were for Jacques Fath, and later he worked for Robert Piguet, Lucien Lelong and Elsa Shiaparelli.
In 1952 he took the decision to open his own brand, the House of Givenchy. His first collection was named Les Séparables and the most iconic piece was the Bettina Blouse, in honour of Bettina Graziani, a Parisian model. This shirt was painted in one of Gruau’s painitngs. His style was innovating, the opposite to conservative style of Dior. Les Séparables was praised by Vogue magazine, The New York Times and l’Album du Figaro.
As fabrics is concerned, the first used by Hubert were cheap fabrics but the designs always stood out because of the originality. He innovated also in this aspect, using “shirting” (raw cotton) to create more casual collections.
In 1954 he created the first women prêt-à-porter collection by a high fashion designer, called “Givenchy Universté”, produced in Paris using American machinery and in 1957 introduced the “Sack dress”, an evolution of the “Shirt dress”. A year later, came out his iconic “Balloon coat” and “Baby Doll” dress. All of three pieces were loose-fitting but that does not mean Hubert did not know how to highlight the feminine figure.
Baby Doll dress
The first perfume of the maison, L’Interdit, was launched in 1957 but for exclusively for Audrey Hepburn’s use and then she became the image of the fragrance. It was the first time ever an actress advertised a perfume. Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn met by the time she was filming Sabrina because he was in charge to do her costumes. It all started with Sabrina (1954), but she wore Givenchy designs at Love in the Afternoon (1957), Funny Face (1957), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), Paris When it Sizzles (1963), How to Steel a Million (1965) and Bloodline (1979).
Back in 1953, Hubert met Cristóbal Balenciaga; it was the beginning of a very long friendship. For him, Balenciaga was an inspiration and his mentor. Just as a curiosity, he boosts the Balenciaga Museum, in Guetaria (Basque Country), inaugurated in 2011, and donated his personal collection of “balenciagas”. Furthermore, also in 1953, on July to be precise, Liz Benn appeared on the cover of Vogue wearing a Givenchy swimsuit.
ca. 1952 — Fashion Designer Cristobal Balenciaga — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
The first line for men was launched in 1969 and was called “Givenchy Man” and two years later designed a collection of embroidered coats as homage to George Braque and Joan Miró. During the seventies Givenchy added shoes, jewels and ties to its products. Moreover, Hubert de Givenchy designed the interiors of Hilton Hotels all around the world and a car, the Lincoln Continental Mark V. Givnehcy Inc. arrived at Fifth Avenue in 1976.
Eventhough in 1981 the maison was divided in two parts because of the acquisition of Veuve Clicquot of the perfumery line, in 1989 the fashion line was sold to the LVMH and nowadays is the owner of Parfums Givenchy, too.
After 43 years of excellent designs and a great success, in 1995 Hubert de Givenchy decided to leave the brand and it took the command John Galliano but he left soon to go to Dior, being succeeded by Alexander McQueen, who was in charge of the artistic department until 2001. Then Julien MacDonald became the Artistic Director and two years later was Ozwald Boateng the successor, who was the responsible of the men line until 2006 developing the male style of the French brand based on British touches, keeping the elegance and classicism of this style. In 2005 women line was given to Riccardo Tisci and in 2009 the male one. Tisci is characterized by the aristocrat elegance that his designs adopt. Moreover, he widened the chromatin palette of the brand, adding, for example, baby blue, red blood, floral prints, metal or flashy colours. Those were not the only things he has changed; he has added a sensual romanticism touch, updating the legacy of Hubert; the image of the maison. Nevertheless, he maintains the uncluttered designs.
Innumerable celebrities have worn Givenchy designs. Some of them are Audrey Hepburn, as we said before, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Maria Callas, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Madonna and much more.
As a last curiosity, for the first time in fashion industry, Riccardo Tisci featured a transsexual model, Lea.T (Leo Cerezo, a Brazilin boy who was the designer’s personal assistant for a few years), for the Fall 2010 collection.