Givenchy

(de) Hubert (1927). French designer. A rare combination in the history of fashion of formal simplicity and rigorous grace that focuses on the details, from fabrics to accessories, and the creator, a man with evergreen elegance, a composite culture, and an innate taste. In the second post-war period, he arrived in Paris from Beauvais. In a portrait for Donna, Maria Pezzi wrote, ‘He had fought a tough fight with his bourgeois, Protestant family, which could not have regard for a son caught up in the fashion octopus. He soon found a place in the atelier of Jacques Fath, the youngest, most extrovert, and enthralling tailor of the moment. He would tell me, “There was a mundane atmosphere, very perfumed, sensual, and dangerous. Only when I moved to Robert Piguet, who was more classic and, above all, a Swiss Protestant, that I reconciled myself with my family.” His eyes shined with humor. After Piguet, he remained for a short time at Lelong and happily arrived at Schiaparelli. I say happily, because those four years in an atelier were different from any other, with a dressmaker who was more of an artist. This was the basis that later allowed him to combine the elegance, classicism, and perfection of his creation with a touch of fantasy, surprise, and eccentricity that characterize his style’. He made his debut at the age of 25 in 1952, and his success was astonishing. There was no newspaper that did not give space to Bettina’s blouse, a piece carrying the name of one of the most requested models of the time. A sketch by Gruau determined the blouse’s triumph. The following year, a decisive meeting took place with Audrey Hepburn for Givenchy and the future of his atelier. She was his living muse, his ideal of female beauty. A fresh body with naïve self-assurance and interior beauty, she was to become the natural ambassador for his classic cuts, in life as well as on the sets. His creations were the ally of fresh fantasy in joyful and tender shades: the bag dress (1953), the mantle with a wrapping collar (1958), and the one with a shelter-shaped collar, the ball skirt, the bustier dress (1969). There was the declination and development of Givenchy’s characteristic vision since his first Collections with sport-inspired designs, apron dresses, flower-patterned pants and his masterpiece tailleurs, shirt’s fabrics and forms for comfort, elegance, and sobriety. He placed his roots further in this idea of fashion after meeting CristÆbal Balenciaga: he recognized a master in the architectural creation of clothes and in his bare, sculpted vitality. Maria Pezzi wrote, ‘He would have wanted to join Balenciaga’s atelier as apprentice. He considered him to be his God. He would recall, “His terrible assistant, Renée, wouldn’t accept me. I met him years later when I already had my atelier. He was a wonderful man who combined an amazing creativity with terrific technique. I learned from him that in life and in the profession you must never cheat: a five-hole button is useless when four are enough. Vionnet and he were the most innovative”. When the Spanish tailor retired from high fashion in 1968, Givenchy inherited his clientele, as prestigious as his own, including actresses and ladies of the jetset scene from Lauren Bacall to the Duchess of Windsor, from Jean Seberg to Grace of Monaco and Jacqueline Onassis. In 1988 the designer retired and sold his maison to Lvhm of Bernard Arnault. Since then the atelier has alternated designers who tend to broaden some aspects, but rarely being able to keep the elusive, constant elegance of that period. Givenchy’s work has been consecrated by two Dé d’Or (1978, 1992) and with the Oscar of Elegance (1985). He was dedicated in 1991 at the Parisian Museum of Fashion and Costume, at Palazzo Galliera, an unforgettable retrospective.
In March Yves Carcelle, who guided the fashion department of Lvmh, had to replace Alexander McQueen, who has been hired by Gucci, chose the Welsh designer Julian MacDonald as artistic director of Givenchy. At his debut he designed a classic womenswear line, in perfect tune with French taste and Givenchy’s style, which celebrated 50 years of business. The very exclusive show took place in Avenue Foch. Three basic colors, as classic as possible: black, white, and grey. Everything was very linear, without useless complications, at most a bow to mark the waist or the inferior part of the back, rather bare, puffed sleeves, corolla skirts, all in perfect Givenchy’s style.
Givenchy concluded two agreements with two Italian partners: De Rigo and Rossi Moda. The former is to be Givenchy’s partner in an eyewear line, the latter in shoes. Both companies are linked to the Lvmh group, of which Givenchy is a controlled society.
Givenchy presented its creations at Trinità dei Monti in Rome. MacDonald had been dreaming to present his designs in Piazza di Spagna since his youth. He has always been in love with Italy (Florence and Portofino in particular) and with its women.
Ozwald Boateng was appointed creative director of the men’s line of the maison. He declares the challenge will be to reinvent the French gentleman.
MacDonald left Givenchy. From Autumn 2005, the Collection is to be designed by Riccardo Tisci.
Riccardo Tisci is appointed creative director of the Maison Givenchy. He will oversee the haute couture, prêt-à-porter, and accessories Collections.