French fashion Icon, Givenchy dies at 91

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Hubert de Givenchy, the aristocratic French fashion designer whose understated style represented a golden age of elegance, has died aged 91.

Givenchy dressed Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy and is famous for the “little black dress”. He died at the Renaissance chateau near Paris that he shared with his partner and fellow designer Philippe Venet.

Hubert de Givenchy with Audrey Hepburn
 Givenchy created wardrobes for Hepburn in films including Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Funny Face. Photograph: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

At 6ft 6in tall, Givenchy, whose full name was Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy, was a giant of the fashion world in every sense.

He created on- and off-screen wardrobes for Hepburn for films including Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Funny Face. His enduring muse, Hepburn inspired Givenchy’s first perfume, l’Interdit, and is credited with the designer’s subsequent success and popularity in the US.

Givenchy, who learned his trade from another fashion master, Cristóbal Balenciaga, produced restrained designs of what admirers called an “extreme elegance” that became his trademark. His creations were eagerly awaited and sought out by the titled and wealthy in the 1950s and 60s, including Princess Grace of Monaco and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.

Hubert de Givenchy in 2002.
 Hubert de Givenchy in 2002. Photograph: Noemi Bruzak/AP

Madame Figaro magazine described his clothes as being made with an almost “surgical precision … not too much, not too little”.

He liked to call himself the “eternal apprentice”, forever seeking new inspiration and ideas. Following a retrospective catwalk show before his retirement in 1995, he told friends: “I’ve stopped making frocks, but not making discoveries. Life is like a book; one has to know when to turn the page.”

The Givenchy label was sold to the LVMH luxury group in 1988 but Givenchy remained head of creative design for seven years. In 2017, when the British designer Clare Waight Keller became head designer at the fashion label, one of her first requests was to meet its founder.

Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
 Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Photograph: Paramount/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock

At the opening of an exhibition in his honour at the Museum of Lace and Fashion in Calais last year, Givenchy said: “I am happy because I did the job I dreamed of as a child.”

Venet said the designer died in his sleep on Saturday.

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