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The Legacy that Hubert De Givenchy Left Us

Words by Rob Chilton

Looking back at the life of one of fashion’s coolest cats, Hubert di Givenchy, it becomes clear that the charismatic founder of the eponymous brand has left the world in a kinder, more stylish and more charming place.

He was almost as famous for his impeccable manners and charm as he was for the ground-breaking clothes he designed. Hubert di Givenchy was a gentleman of his industry, loved by his fellow designers and his clients.

The sadness that greeted his death in March – coupled with the warmth of the tributes that followed – demonstrated the affection in which this highly respected man was held.

A titan of fashion, Givenchy shook the industry by its lapels – politely of course. He was the first designer to use a famous person to endorse a fragrance when he chose Audrey Hepburn to represent L’Interdit in 1957. He was the first designer to work on interior design for hotels with Hilton in the 1970s, the first to use black models in a runway show, the first to use plastic in a wedding dress, and the first to use cotton in haute couture.

Writer Eloy Martinez worked closely with the iconic designer for the last eight years of his life before he died in March aged 91, curating exhibitions and writing an official biography of Givenchy.

Martinez tells EDGAR that of the many qualities he admired in Givenchy, modesty and manners stand apart.

“All the great designers of the 20th century who knew Hubert de Givenchy like Coco Chanel, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, all say he was a gentleman. His manners were exquisite. He always helped people he worked with and gave them small gifts – he really cared about people and was very humble.”

The name Givenchy the brand chose for its men’s fragrance now makes a lot more sense: Gentleman.

Hubert Givenchy


Givenchy’s work extended beyond fashion, says Martinez. “He was more than a designer and few brands have changed history like Givenchy. Take cinema for example, Givenchy changed fashion in film like no other designer. He put haute couture into millions of homes via the cinema.”

Givenchy arrived in the fashion world aged 25, a good two decades younger than most of the other major designers, but he quickly made his mark and earned the respect of his industry colleagues.

“He was full of passion for fashion and was always beautifully dressed,” explains Martinez, 51. “He was a very tall man – two metres tall – but his movement was very elegant. He was so good looking, they often said he was more beautiful than the models he used.”

In Pictures. Givenchy's Energy

Photos. Robert Doisneau Rapho


Robert Doisneau Rapho Eloy Martinez cutting a dapper, Givenchy-esque figure.


Robert Doisneau Rapho Eloy Martinez cutting a dapper, Givenchy-esque figure.


Robert Doisneau Rapho Givenchy's famous Couture House on George V Avenue.

Hubert Givenchy


SKREBNESKI Never greyscale: A fresh-faced Hubert De Givenchy.

Martinez saw Givenchy working hard even in his final days. “He had amazing energy,” smiles the writer.

“The week before he died, we were in Paris together and he was drawing with pencil and charcoal, and I mean drawing perfectly. He remembered a dress he made for Carmen Martinez-Bordiu years before and he drew it right there. I met her a week later and told her about Hubert’s drawing. She showed me the dress and it was exactly the same as his sketch.”

At their last meeting before he died, Givenchy was telling Martinez how much he respected Yves Saint Laurent. “He was a great storyteller,” smiles Martinez. “If you were with him and you mentioned a name, like Liz Taylor or Grace Jones he would have an amazing story about them. Hubert always said he felt really privileged to live such a beautiful life.”

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