Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Finally at Twenty-Four, I Opened My Own House"

“Finally at the age of twenty-four I opened my own house.” Hubert de Givenchy 

 Un petit histoire de Monsieur Givenchy...

Jackie Kennedy leaving Givenchy's couture salon after a fitting.

Givenchy apprenticed with Jacques Fath, who amazingly showed up to work in a full length wolf coat, and Robert Piguet, who spent most of the day in his office with a light outside his office that either said “Wait!” or “Enter!”. From Piguet, Givenchy went to work for Lucien Lelong whose atelier numbered  1,500 employees.  At Lelong Givenchy had to go before a sort of tribunal where Lelong, his daughter and the directrice of the salon would pick and choose the designs they liked.

A model in Givenchy couture in the salon of Givenchy's Paris home.

Givenchy became Elsa Schiaparelli’s assistant in 1947. And it was here he said that he discovered “true elegance”.  Schiaparelli had just returned from the United States and reopened her salon in the Place Vendome.  In the storeroom were metres and metres of fabrics printed with surrealist motifs: silks with mouths, lips, stars and newsprint.  He asked what he was to do with these leftovers?  “Use it up.” was the reply and he was given free reign to do what he wanted.  Givenchy created for Schiaparelli his first separates: little blouses and skirts in Schiaparelli’s whimsical prints. It was also at Schiaparelli that Givenchy met some of the uber chic ladies who would later become his clients: Daisy Fellowes and Babe  Paley.

From Givenchy's first collection in 1952: a dress of smoke grey organza and a cape of cotton shirting.

“Fabric is where it all begins”

For Givenchy fabric was the be all and end all.  A collection began with the “feel of a velvet, the crackle of a duchesse satin, the sheen of a faille, the iridescence of a shot taffeta, the strength of a brocade.”  In his quest for the best, Givenchy worked with the  houses that produced the most exquisite fabrics in the world: Suzy Gandini, Madame Broissen de Méré, and Gustave Zumsteg.

 Minidress in Taroni's black tulle printed with white dots.  Worn with a lily of the valley boater.

"The Hepburn style had been born and it lives on today." Hubert de Givenchy

In 1954 Givenchy created the clothes for the Billy Wilder film Sabrina.  Sabrina was played by Audrey Hepburn.  Givenchy said "Her chic, her youth, her bearing and her silhouette grew ever more celebrated, enveloping me in a kind of of aura or radiance that I could never have hoped for."  

Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy at an awards ceremony.

Givenchy haute couture at RARE vintage 

I recently acquired a wonderful Givenchy couture gown for RARE vintage from the 1980s.  It is opulently representative of the luxe and dramatic 80s.  And it is ideally representative of Givenchy seeking the most beautiful fabrics, the most gorgeous embroidery. 

Silk taffeta striped Hubert de Givenchy haute couture gown.  Labeled, signed and numbered.  Gown is slightly bustled and gathered with a raised hemline in the front.


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