In 1952, with opening his own couture house in Paris, Givenchy earned instant acclaim for his simple, reasonably priced mix-and-match blouses, skirts, and slacks. He was noted for his embroidered and printed fabrics and his imaginative use of accessories. With his collections, the world of haute couture got a breath of fresh air, as he managed to adapt traditional garments to the new requirements of the elegant traveling woman.
The year of 1953 became a turning point, as the young designer meets Audrey Hepburn, the incarnation of his ideal of femininity – inspired and assisted by Hepburn, Givenchy achieved a huge popularity by furnishing Hollywood movie stars. Those days, another event brought global attention to Givenchy dresses: when John F.Kennedy was assassinated, the world witnessed a mourning Kennedy family all dressed in Givenchy clothes. A pioneer in many fields, Givenchy was the first designer to present a luxury collection of women’s ready-to-wear (1954) and the first couturier to introduce short skirts (1958) so that women could show their knees for the first time since the 1920s. His work, combining elegance and classicism with audacity and modernity, is noted for separate skirts and tops; unusual embroidered and printed fabrics; tubular evening dresses; sumptuous ball gowns; jeweled headbands; shawls; the princess silhouette; sleeveless coats; funnel necklines; and his perfumes.
As time goes by, the Givenchy brand diversified its activities. 1973 is a milestone year, as Givenchy enters the realm of menswear, with the launch of the “Gentleman Givenchy” line. The brand also expands its distribution network internationally to many countries, in particular to the Far East and to the United States.
In 1988, Hubert de Givenchy, faced with a problem of personal funds and sold his company to the LVMH Group (Dior, Christian Lacroix, Celine, Kenzo). In 1995, Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, hired the famously flamboyant fashion designer John Galliano (voted the best British designer of the year) to bring Givenchy into the modern era. The appointment of Galliano, known as “the turbulent dandy” utterly shocked many observers, as well as the sixty-eight-year-old Givenchy, who learned about it when he read a news release issued by his own press office! Galliano’s first collection for Givenchy (1996) combined his extravagant evening dresses with the elegant restraint of Givenchy. In October 1996 Galliano suddenly switch to Dior, taking the vacant position of Gianfranco Ferre. In the future, design will be executed by another Englishman, 27 year old Alexander McQueen, who received the “Designer of the Year” award for 1996 of the British Fashion Award council.