French designer Givenchy dies at age 91

French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, famous for the "little black dress", died in his sleep on Saturday.
French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, famous for the "little black dress", died in his sleep on Saturday.

PARIS • Mr Hubert de Givenchy, the aristocratic French fashion designer famous for the "little black dress" and styling actress Audrey Hepburn, has died at the age of 91, his partner said yesterday.

Mr Givenchy set the template for ladylike chic in the 1950s and 1960s, dressing everyone from Princess Grace of Monaco to former US First Lady Jackie Kennedy.

His long-time partner, former haute couture designer Philippe Venet, announced his death through the Givenchy fashion house, saying he had died in his sleep on Saturday.

With his perfect manners and old-school charm, Mr Givenchy was the very acme of French elegance and refinement.

But it was his 40-year friendship with his muse Hepburn, who he met on the set of the Oscar-winning comedy Sabrina in 1953, that helped make him a fashion legend.

The narrow-collared suits and slim woollen dresses Mr Givenchy designed for the gamine actress for Funny Face and How to Steal a Million made both of them style icons.

The black sheath dress he created for the opening scenes of Breakfast at Tiffany's was perhaps the most famous "little black dress" of all time - even if fellow Paris fashion legend Coco Chanel is credited with inventing the garment.

 

In 1988, Mr Givenchy sold his design label to the French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH for US$46 million. He continued to pour out collections six times a year until his official retirement in 1995.

Yet two decades on, his restrained style still informs the way Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and older American and Chinese socialites dress.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2018, with the headline 'French designer Givenchy dies at age 91'. Print Edition | Subscribe