Kevin Fernando, our very own fashion historian, dishes about his love for Givenchy, and gives us his FAVE FIVE reasons to love fashion's unsung hero.
Givenchy is one of the unsung heroes of haute couture. While his creations were not necessarily as innovative as his mentor Cristobal Balenciaga, or colleagues Yves Saint Laurent or Andre Courreges, his continual pursuit of elegance made a mark upon the women he dressed. None were more notable than his muse, client, and longtime friend Audrey Hepburn, who wore his creations both on and off the silver screen, beginning with the beautiful and cinematic film Sabrina.
Coco Chanel first popularized the ideal quintessential black dress in 1926, though it would be forever ingrained in popular culture through Truman Capote’s character Holly Golightly as portrayed by Audrey Hepburn. In it, she wears arguably the most famous black dress in history, executed by none other than Hubert de Givenchy. The classy cut of a black dress was nothing new, from John Singer Sargent’s Madame X to Martha Graham’s performance wear, but Givenchy’s iconic sheath was cut with a nod to the past, with proportions that have visibly stood the test of time.
This polka dot number constructed in structured silk burlap from Givenchy’s haute couture collection of Spring/Summer 1988 is a reflection of its time in which proportions were enlarged to exude the culture of booming ostentation from music to politics, and you can also see his respect for his idol, the Basque-born master Cristobal Balenciaga. The polka dots and voluminous proportions of ruffles beneath the bodice harkens back to Balenciaga’s creations that were inspired by flamenco gypsies that danced to the syncopated percussion of clapping and strummed guitar.
This next piece composed in structured taffeta with a ruched honey-comb shaped bubble hem dates to approximately fall/winter 1987 or later. I strongly attribute this timing to the sensation that swept the Paris haute couture world: Lacroix sweetie! When Christian Lacroix unveiled his youthful pouf dresses, Paris haute couture was undergoing an identity crisis due to a declining clientele and lack of appeal to the younger generations. Even though this dress was created by Givenchy, you can see the influence of the Zeitgeist from the late 80s while integrating his own precise craft and his admiration for Balenciaga.
This dress is perhaps one of the sexiest pieces I have ever seen coming from a couture house with a reputation for impeccable elegance. No disregards to this dress not being elegant, but as you can see from the défilé, the center front slit is cut higher than the typical couture client would have asked for! However, the exact model we have in person provides evidence that the original owner asked for a less “revealing”, providing insight to how intimate the haute couture process is between client and creator.
The art of millinery is deeply ingrained in Haute Couture, and many couturiers and designers alike have started their careers from this special realm of fashion from Jeanne Lanvin, Coco Chanel and Charles James to Halston and Adolfo Sardinia. Givenchy did not start from millinery, but he understood the importance of how a hat could transcend function, dictating the entire essence of an outfit. From the wide brimmed black hat worn by Audrey Hepburn as she abrasively hailed a cab as Holly Golightly, to being poised for perfection for Cecil Beaton in the house’s latest millinery modes from 1964, Givenchy refused to disappoint the imagination, never failing to decorate oneself above the crown.
From their vibrant colors and perfumed nature to their fragility and poetic meanings, flowers have been an inspiration in high fashion whether through fragrance and cosmetics to embroideries and accents. For instance, these combs are a beautiful representation of femininity in the most charming of manners. Originally made to order to the specifications of a client for the purpose of matching an ensemble, any one of these combs could create the perfect amount of drama and excitement to liven up an outfit- I would even convert one into a brooch. They are certainly, cost effectively, the best way to invest into Haute Couture without breaking the bank. At under $100, sign me up!
by Kevin Fernando