French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy dies aged 91

The man who created the iconic “Little Black Dress” for Audrey Hepburn’s opening scenes in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was also responsible for styling Hollywood screen sirens Elizabeth Taylor and actress Grace Kelly, who became Princess of Monaco, in the 1950s and 1960s.

But his most famous client was Hepburn, whom he met when he dressed her for the romantic comedy, Sabrina.

She once said of him: “His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality.”

His designs for the actress’s wardrobe for films including Paris When It Sizzles, Lone in the Afternoon, Funny Face and How to Steal a Million made them both style icons.

Givenchy’s partner, former haute couture designer Philippe Venet, said he died in his sleep in their Renaissance chateau near Paris on Saturday.

His label described him as “a symbol of Parisian elegance for more than half a century… who revolutionised fashion”.

Givenchy was among the elite group of Paris-based designers including Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent and his mentor, Christobal Balenciaga, who spearheaded the resurgence of haute couture and ladylike chic after the austerity years of the Second World War.

He moved to Paris to study at the the age of 17 and founded The House of Givenchy in 1952, aged 25 – the youngest designer of the progressive fashion scene.

“To dress a woman is to make her beautiful,” Givenchy once said.

“In haute couture, we are cosmetic surgeons, erasing imperfections and refining the silhouette… for isn’t a couturier a magician of sorts, who creates illusion and perhaps beauty itself.”

Jackie Kennedy wore Givenchy for the funeral of her husband President John F Kennedy in 1963.

Fellow couturiers Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne, Christian Lacroix and Valentino had front row seats for his final couture show in July 1995 at the opulent Grand Hotel at the Paris Opera.

An emotional Givenchy brought on all his loyal “petites mains” seamstresses to share the applause.

Givenchy retired in 1995, and was succeeded by John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald and Italy’s Riccardo Tisci.

The fashion house’s current chief designer, British-born Clare Waight, said Givenchy was “not only one of the most influential fashion figures of our time, whose legacy still influences modern day dressing, but he also was one of the chicest most charming men I have ever met”.

“The definition of a true gentleman that will stay with me forever,” she added.


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