Audrey Hepburn may have not been a designer per se, but she has left an impression that continues to inspire generations today. Like designers leave behind revolutionary silhouettes and unique color palates, fashion icons leave behind a legacy, a stature, a timeless elegance impossible to recreate. The couture craftsmanship of a YSL wrap skirt can’t be replicated, and the balletic grace of Hepburn is impossible to mimic.
This month is a fitting time to pay homage to the fashion icon. On December 5th, her 1961 Givenchy Breakfast at Tiffany’s dress was auctioned and sold for Â£467,200 at Christie’s South Kensington.
Her twenty-year friendship with iconic designer Hubert de Givenchy has resulted in a fashion contribution rich in history and tradition. In a quest to find a designer to create her wardrobe for Sabrina, Hepburn asked Gladys de Segonzac from the house of Schiaparelli, to introduce her to Givenchy. The rest is fashion history.
Great designers are known for having muses -lithe, little things that have the ability to wear sample sizes while omitting a charismatic flare (think Marc Jacob’s Sofia Coppola) – but few designers have the blessing to work with a creature as delicate as Hepburn. After meeting Hepburn, Givenchy went on to design her wardrobe for movie classics such as Funny Face and Charade, as well as create tailored pieces for her personal collection.
Hubert de Givenchy studied at the ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris before working for Lucien Lelong in 1946 with fellow fashion great, Chirstian Dior. With Balenciaga’s atelier across the street on avenue George V, Givenchy looked to the Spaniard for inspiration. When he opened the House of Givenchy in 1952, Givenchy introduced an aesthetic elegance that resonated with Hollywood movie stars, political princesses and the European elite.
Excelling in a style associated with nonchalant couture, women such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Hepburn were fond of his seemingly unstructured pieces. What distinguished his craft was the use of â€œsouplesse,â€? rather than a tailor’s dart (a loose-looped stitch). This method allowed a relaxed fold, which gave his sack dresses-an ode to his inspiration, Balenciaga-and baggy silhouettes a defined shape. Diana Vreeland considered his â€œsplit levelâ€? ensemble her work uniform and was one of his of most devoted followers.
His most lasting and cherished design can be honored in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Some may say that it was Coco Chanel who introduced the Little Black Dress, but it was Givenchy and Hepburn who solidified its place in pop culture. Riccardo Tisci, the current creative director of the House of Givenchy, cited that this dress was his first guide to his fashion career. While the front of the dress is severe and clean, the sensual racer-back is inspired by a Parisian aesthetic.
Of the design maestro, Hepburn once said, â€œHis are the only clothes in which I feel myself.â€? And in keeping with that thought, the Givenchy-Hepburn duo continue to inspire the generations of today.