Hubert de Givenchy, the French designer who got his start working with avant-garde designer Elsa Schiaparelli and ended up creating the Little Black Dress, died at 91 the fashion house announced Monday.
In a statement, the house of Givenchy said the designer was “a major personality of the world of French haute couture and a gentleman who symbolized Parisian chic and elegance for more than half a century.” He created iconic looks for Jackie Kennedy and Audrey Hepburn, from Kennedy’s shift dress and pillbox-hat uniform to Hepburn’s dresses in Funny Face and How to Steal a Million.
“Immediately we had this great sympathy together,” Givenchy told the Los Angeles Times in 1995. “She was a dancer and she knew perfectly how to walk and move. I remember how beautiful I thought her smile was.” He won an Oscar for costume design for his contributions to Sabrina. From then on he designed his collections as if they were with Hepburn in mind.”
He worked alongside Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior after WWII, and working with Schiaparelli before starting his own fashion house in 1952. It was then that he popularized the concept of “separates” — pieces like blouses, jackets, and trousers that could be mixed and matched.
Perhaps the best quote about Givenchy’s work is by a British fashion writer, who said, “These dresses remind you of that first, best glass of champagne.”
Bernard Arnault, head of LVMH which now owns Givenchy, said he was “one of the creators who put Paris at the summit of world fashion in the 1950s.” And the designer was always grateful, telling People in 1996, “To have lived your dream is very rare in life. I have been so fortunate.”