Hubert de Givenchy,the French fashion designer whose elegant style and sophistication marked a whole era of Parisian fashion,has died age 91.He is famous for dressing some of the most famous ladies of his time such as Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly as well as for his lifelong friendship and collaboration with film star Audrey Hepburn.
With the extensive press obituaries focusing on his work with Hepburn and his take on the ”little black dress”, i cant help but think that his legacy lies far beyond the obvious.His perception of haute couture was of the couturier being a ‘cosmetic surgeon’ who will be ”erasing imperfections and refining the silhouette … for isn’t a couturier a magician of sorts, who creates illusion and perhaps beauty itself?” It is. In his view, a couturier is an innovator who follows his vision and the client’s personality, creating a refined image of modern elegance.In that sense, he has created a ‘mood board’ for ladylike chic that is still influencing the way royals and socialites dress today.
Apart from being the ”symbol of Parisian elegance of more than half a century,” he was also the first couturier to launch a luxury ready-to-wear line.The idea of connecting the luxury qualities of couture with the versatility of ready-to-wear is at the forefront of modern fashion quests and can be traced in the work of hyped designers such as Alessandro Michele (for Gucci) and Demna Gvasalia (for Balenciaga).Pushing the idea for modern chic a step further, he introduced early the idea of a wardrobe of ‘separates’ : that is blouse, skirt,trouser and coat basics that can be mixed-the earlier we have in the conception of a ‘capsule’ wardrobe that is so much a trend today.
Givenchy himself epitomized his philosophy at the exhibition of his creations at the City of Lace and Fashion in Calais, by saying that “too much artifice” detracts from clothing. Always respect the material was his mantra.Or as he places it:“A piece of material has a life. You must never upset it, if you want the material to speak.” You can’t get more modern than that.