The gods smiled on Hubert de Givenchy when they blessed him with Audrey Hepburn as a close friend and muse. In the 1950's and 60's, when Hepburn was at the height of her powersdefining chic for a world of admiring womenGivenchy dressed her both on- and offscreen. And in a marketing move that has stood the test of time, he featured his gorgeous pal in his perfume ads, too. The talented Givenchy was lucky that way: First Lady Jackie Kennedy also was photographed often in his trim coats with cropped sleeves and his slim, judiciously unadorned L.B.D.s.
Givenchy, born in 1927, was one of a handful who studied at the knees of the greats in the creative hotbed that was postwar Paris. He worked alongside Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior at the house of Lucien Lelong, then honed his skills as an assistant to Elsa Schiaparelli. In 1952, Givenchy founded his own house, with an accent on polished separates for a modern-day woman. The look was one of understated chicfeminine, but not flamboyant.
In 1988, Givenchy sold the company to the French conglomerate LVMH, retiring seven years later. The peripatetic John Galliano was Givenchy's immediate successor; he was followed by Alexander McQueen and then by Julien Macdonald, who helmed the house from 2001 to 2004. The current creative director is Riccardo Tisci. In his plaid shirts and sneakers, he may seem like an unlikely heir to the impeccable Givenchy himself, but Tisci has been steadily winning over the critics.
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March 24, 2008 12:00AM