He was deemed the last great master of haute couture in the 20th century. The late Hubert de Givenchy, that is. Over the course of his 5-decade-long career, de Givenchy and his eponymous label (which he sold off in 1988) came to be loved by some of the most iconic stars and the fashion industry, alike, for his classicist manner, which was paired, of course with his penchant for making garments that “were comfortable on the body,” something of a rarity at a time when “couture looked kindly on the corseted bodice and nipped-in waistline,” as Drusilla Beyfus wrote for the Telegraph in 2015.
In light of the death of Mr. de Givenchy, we take a look back at some of his thoughts on luxury, the evolution of fashion, muses Jackie O. and Audrey Hepburn, and more …
On luxury: Luxury has become everything that is flashy, everything that can be seen. For me, on the contrary, luxury is simplicity, discretion, refinement. It is the black dress that one looks at and notices the finishes, the details, the aplomb. Now, unfortunately, what we call luxury is the heaping up of accessories, of jewelry, of diamond … For me, a luxury item is above all a refined item. It is the essential, things we mustn’t show. (Crash, March 2016).
On the only things women really need in their wardrobe: All a woman needs to be chic is a raincoat, two suits, a pair of trousers and a cashmere sweater. (1952).
On Jackie O. and Audrey Hepburn: I had a good French clientele, but everyone wanted to look like Jackie Onassis, she wore my clothes before she became first lady of the U.S., then it was Audrey Hepburn. Audrey was an exceptional person. She was someone who knew how to wear an outfit better than anyone. (The Guardian, Oct. 2014).
On modern day couture: Maybe I’ll shock a lot of people here, but I think that haute couture has come to an end. (The Guardian, Oct. 2014).
On his idol Cristobal Balenciaga: Balenciaga was my religion … When I first met him, I was influenced by his self-belief, his refusal to cheat, his simplicity and his honesty. It’s true that his work really resonated with me. I was in awe of him. I was fascinated by his meticulousness. He knew how to do everything – cut a dress, assemble it from a pattern. He had worked in London and elsewhere, and had forged his own vision of fashion through which he was able to express his creativity. He allowed me to prove myself and to develop my own ideas and creativity. (System, 2017)
On fashion in 2017: I no longer look at fashion. The world is a very different place now. I sometimes ask myself, ‘Has elegance disappeared? Is there no longer any direction in contemporary fashion?’ It all makes very little sense to me. (System, 2017)
On the evolution of fashion: Fashion should evolve slowly, without any revolution. Only in this way a dress can be loved and last. I do not say this to boast, but when seeing [my own designs for Givenchy], we observe that it is not so far from fashion. (EFE).