On March 12, the world lost a fashion legend and true gentleman when Hubert de Givenchy passed away at the age of 91. Known for his elegant and ladylike clothes, Givenchy was the last of his generation of post-war French designers that gave new life to haute couture.
Born in 1927 as the son of a marquis, Givenchy knew from an early age he wanted to design dresses; he was inspired by a family trip to a Parisian fair that highlighted the fashions of Chanel, Lanvin, and other couture houses. He attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris for a year, and after apprenticing for fashion powerhouses such as Jacques Fath, Robert Piguet, Lucien Lelong, and Elsa Schiaparelli, the young designer launched his own label in 1952. He found success with his first collection by using affordable fabrics - a solution to the rising cost of textiles in Europe's recovering economy - and introducing stylish separates. The Bettina blouse, a lively embroidered flamenco-sleeve garment named for his fit model and PR Director Bettina Graziani, was an instant smash. At just 25, the handsome and statuesque designer was a breath of fresh air in the French fashion community.
He will forever be linked with his muse and lifelong friend Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn, then relatively unknown, approached the sought-after designer as she prepared for her role as a transformed Parisian sophisticate in Sabrina (1954). After an initial mix-up (he thought he would be dressing Katharine Hepburn) the two made an immediate connection. He dressed the actress for her iconic roles in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Funny Face (1957), and Charade (1963), among other films, and helped establish her renowned personal style; she praised, "His are the only clothes in which I am myself." Jacqueline Kennedy, Grace Kelly, and FIDM Museum founding donor Betsy Bloomingdale were just a few of the women that made up his high profile clientele.