Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy, the French aristocrat who founded the house of Givenchy in 1952, died on Saturday at the age of 91.
Givenchy’s family announced his death “with huge sadness” via the French news agency AFP on Monday. He is survived by his partner, Philippe Venet, his nieces and nephews, and their children.
At the start of his career, Givenchy worked alongside famous names like Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, and Elsa Schiaparelli. He opened his own design house at the age of 25, making him one of the youngest designers on the Paris fashion scene.
Givenchy met his longtime muse, Audrey Hepburn in 1953 on the set of Sabrina — just a year after he went out on his own. Hepburn was also in her mid-20s at the time, and they would remain friends for 40 years. Givenchy designed Hepburn’s first Oscars gown, the famous “little black dress” she wears in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as well as a pink jersey dress for her wedding day.
“Givenchy’s creations always gave me a sense of security and confidence,” Hepburn once said, “and my work went more easily in the knowledge that I looked absolutely right. I felt the same at my private appearances. Givenchy’s outfits gave me ‘protection’ against strange situations and people. I felt so good in them.”
Givenchy’s other clients were a long list of leading ladies: Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Grace Kelly, Diana Vreeland, Bunny Mellon, Lauren Bacall, the Duchess of Windsor, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Gloria Guinness, and Jane Fonda, among others.
Givenchy remained head of creative design at Givenchy until he retired in 1995. (He sold the house to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, however, in 1988.) His predecessors included John Galliano, Alexander McQueen and Julien MacDonald. Riccardo Tisci took over in 2005, followed by Clare Waight Keller in 2017. Waight Keller is the label’s first female artistic director, and made an astonishing couture debut in January.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of a great man and artist I have had the honor to meet and get to know since my appointment at Givenchy,” Waight Keller wrote on her personal Instagram. “Not only was he one of the most influential fashion figures of our time, whose legacy still influences modern day dressing, but he also was one of the chicest most charming men I have ever met. The definition of a true gentleman, that will stay with me forever.”