Hubert de Givenchy in 2002. Photograph: Noemi Bruzak/AP
Balenciaga was my religion, and because I am a believer, for me there is Balenciaga and the Lord, he said later.
Young, elegant, impeccably turned out and well-educated, Givenchy soon found work in the fashion houses that had sprung up in the chaos and excitement of postwar Paris, meeting Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain, both older and on their way to becoming established fashion figures.
In 1947, while still studying, he began working at Elsa Schiaparellis fashion house, becoming the artistic director of its boutique on the chic Place Vendme.
He opened his own atelier in 1952 and his first collection, featuring elegant blouses and light skirts in simple materials, was heavily influenced by the structured, architectural style of Balenciaga. Like his master, Givenchy believed less was more when it came to fashion design, preferring the simple but perfect stylish cut to the decorated or ostentatious. In the summer of 1953, he met Hepburn and loaned her several outfits for her film Sabrina. It was the start of a long, faithful collaboration and a deep friendship. Later that year, in New York, Givenchy finally met Balenciaga.
Givenchy liked to call himself the eternal apprentice, forever seeking new inspiration and ideas. After a retrospective catwalk show before his retirement in 1995, he told friends: Ive stopped making frocks, but not making discoveries. Life is like a book: one has to know when to turn the page.
The Givenchy label was sold to the LVMH luxury group in 1988 but Givenchy remained head of creative design for seven years. A succession of well-known successors followed: John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Julien Macdonald, Riccardo Tisci.
In 2017, when the British designer
Clare Waight Keller became the labels head designer, one of her first requests was to meet its founder. Waight Keller wrote on Instagram on Monday that she was deeply saddened by the loss of a great man and artist I have had the honour to meet.
Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys. Photograph: Paramount/Kobal/Rex/Shutterstock
At the opening of an exhibition in his honour at the Museum for Lace and Fashion in Calais last year, Givenchy said: I am happy because I did the job I dreamed of as a child.
However, he seemed disenchanted with modern haute couture. Today, I find theres a kind of anything goes. It seems to me that fashion has become something else and I cannot say Im enthusiastic. Theres fashion and there are fashions, he said.
A statement from the Givenchy fashion house also paid homage to its founder, describing him as an unrivalled personality in the world of French haute couture and a symbol of Parisian elegance for more than half a century.
It added: Today his approach to fashion and his influence still continue his work remains as relevant today as it has always been.