The icon/ Hubert De Givenchy hates vulgarity

She had taste and she was not vulgar, even wearing a shoe as a hat or a dress with a painted lobster, it was chic and the clothes were very wearable. Now that does not happen” said last week in Madrid the superstar of fashion’s Golden Age, Hubert de Givenchy reminiscing about Elsa Schiaparelli. The 87 year-old who is a loving testimony to the history of fashion didn’t mince words, describing present-day fashion as “vulgar.” Givenchy, a disciple of renowned Spanish designer Cristobal Balenciaga, is one of few still living from the classic haute couture era. Wearing a suit, a blue shirt with a white collar and sunglasses, Givenchy added: “Fashion should evolve slowly, without any revolution (…) only in this way a dress can be loved and last.” Next to him several of the designs he created during the late decades of the 20th century. The future exhibits of Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum. Among the pieces showing at the exhibition are a dress worn by his close friend, actress Audrey Hepburn, in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, and other elegant clothes worn by the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Grace Kelly. A lover of art, a passion he inherited from his ancestors who liked to collect fabrics, Hubert de Givenchy grew up “surrounded by beauty”, and knew how to appreciate good fabrics.


“The conversation between Givenchy and the collection of the museum is noble, honest and strong,” says curator Eloy Martinez de la Pera, who stressed that Givenchy was modest despite the fact that he is a living testimony to style. His contemporary style was present when he kicked off his illustrious career in 1954 with the ‘Separates’ collection.


Thanks to him, the world of fashion gave birth to “prêt-à-porter”, as Givenchy presented elegant street clothes as a replacement for evening gowns. “If I had to start over, I’ll do the same thing, street clothes are the future, the client can choose two or three things, and combine them as she wants,” he said.


A few moments later, citing today’s fashion culture where edginess is more important than elegance, he added: “Maybe I’ll shock a lot of people here, but I think that haute couture has come to an end. (…) The times have changed. What will happen, I don’t know.” He paused. “And I probably won’t be here to find out.”


The Hubert de Givenchy retrospective at the Thyssen-Bornemisza museum in Madrid runs until 18 January, 2015. Photos: Givenchy, 1960. Robert Doisneau.