The Bite Magazine - Autmn/Winter 2020 - Issue 28

Admired for his height of 6 foot 6 and iconic designs, Jada Brookes looks at the history of pioneer haute couture designer Hubert de Givenchy’s career. GIVEN I t took a young man of 17 to leave his hometown in Beauvais, northern France, where he was born in 1927, to travel to Paris to fulfil a passion that would eventu- ally see him open his own fashion house. Hubert de Givenchy started his apprenticeship at Jacques Fath, con- sidered one of the three dominant influences on postwar haute couture; the others being Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain. Whilst in training, he studied drawing at the École National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the French National School of Fine Art. In 1946, he moved to Robert Piguet, the Swiss-born, Par- is-based fashion designer who also trained Christian Dior. The following year, de Givenchy worked briefly with Luc- ien Lelong, a French couturier who was prominent from the 1920s to the 1940s. In that same year, he joined Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, who was Coco Chanel’s biggest rival and one of the pioneering figures in fashion. Here, de Givenchy quickly became the artistic director of her boutique on Place Vendôme in Paris. Five years later, the emerging designer founded his name- sake house on Rue Alfred de Vigny, one of the chic neigh- bourhoods in Paris. Here, you’ll find Avenue des Champs Elysées, close to the iconic Arc de Triomphe and the chaotic traffic circle of Place de la Concorde. His debut collection ‘Bettina’ named after Bettina Graziani, the lead model who walked in his first catwalk show, consisted of separates in- cluding elegant blouses and breezy skirts that blended archi- tectural lines with the simplicity of the materials. The year 1953 saw de Givenchy work under his idol, Spanish ‘master’ designer Cristóbal Balenciaga. The duo introduced the revolutionary chemise or sack dress acclaimed as “a gen- uinely new fashion shape”. They were described by The New York Times as “undisputedly the world’s most prophetic de- signers.” De Givenchy was also credited with pioneering the princess silhouette and dressing Audrey Hepburn. She bor- rowed several looks for her film Sabrina and later became his muse. Their friendship almost didn’t happen when de Givenchy declined an invitation to design for her, saying, “No, mad- emoiselle, I can’t dress you.” He was expecting the more fa- mous Katharine Hepburn. According to his recollection, he saw this “very thin person with beautiful eyes, short hair, thick eyebrows, very thin trousers, ballerina shoes, and a little t-shirt.” Audrey eventually persuaded him by inviting him to dinner, and by the end of the night, he had fallen under her spell. Several years later, the couture designer would become fa- mous for crafting the quintessential black satin gown worn by Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s . The elegant sleeveless bitefashion Special Designer Profile HOUSEO GIVENCHY