GIVENCHY AND HEPBURN The ultimate designer/muse collaboration
Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn were the ultimate designer/muse power duo creating moments that have gone down in the history books for their breathtaking beauty. Aisling O'Loughlin looks back on some of the highlights...
He was expecting Hollywood superstar Katherine Hepburn but it was the other Hepburn, a doe-eyed, gamine beauty in cigarette pants, a t-shirt and sandals who Hubert de Givenchy greeted when she arrived to borrow clothes for her latest movie Sabrina in 1953. Funnily enough, Givenchy, who died this week aged 91, was a bit disappointed the ‘real deal’ hadn’t turned up and only offered the fledgling star clothes he had made already, rather than plan a new wardrobe. A wobbly start aside, it was the beginning of a designer/muse relationship made in heaven.
Audrey Hepburn was the embodiment of Givenchy’s style: Effortlessly elegant, understated and classy. They don’t make ‘em like that any more.
Perhaps Kiera Knightley’s relationship with Karl Lagerfeld is as close as it gets but there’s something so contrived about today’s hyperactive commercialism that detracts from the pairing.
When Givenchy based his first fragrance on Audrey, there were no big budget deals – it was a symbol of their close bond. Audrey was known to call Givenchy up on a whim to say, ‘I know you are busy but I wanted to send you a big kiss’ and then just hang up.
The opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the ultimate homage to their union, tear inducingly beautiful, set to the music of Henry Mancini’s Moon River, we watch, spellbound, as Holly Golightly emerges from a yellow taxi as the camera follows her in that much copied, never equalled, Givenchy black dress with the four string pearl neckline, to the window of Tiffany’s.
There we fall in love, time and time again, with an image of startling elegance.
How could it all come together so perfectly?That swirl of perfectly coiffed hair, the opera gloves, the sunglasses, the coffee and croissant somehow adding to the dreaminess of the scene.
I feel a trip to the Newbridge Museum of Style Icons beckons to linger a while in the Audrey Hepburn section and drink in that pink cocktail dress she also wore to outer worldly effect in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the yellow print dress from Funnyface (1957) and the black two-piece from Charade (1963), all from Givenchy. Nice work William Doyle for nabbing those pieces at auction.
Of course, Givenchy dressed other great beauties including Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor but Audrey Hepburn will forever be the name associated with his towering talent (he was nearly six foot six) and eye for refinement.
As a boy, Givenchy was obsessed with the Spanish designer Balenciaga who relocated to Paris during the Spanish Civil War. Eventually he moved his atelier to within a stone’s throw of his idol on Avenue Georges V in Paris.
Out of the rubble and devastation of World War II, these couturiers, along with Dior, Chanel, Balmain and Fath reclaimed that sense of luxury and innovation that had made Paris great before and took it to the world stage.
Obviously we’ve moved on since then. We wear trainers to black tie events for God’s sake! Givenchy was the last of a dying breed of designers who stood for the highest ideals of beauty and with Audrey Hepburn managed to take our breaths away with some of the most iconic looks of the 1950s. As Holly Golightly says in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, ‘Anyone who ever gave you confidence, you owe them a lot’.