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Givenchy, French fashion icon, dies aged 91

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Designer Hubert de Givenchy, pictured with the model Iman in 2002, was a giant of French fashion

French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, who created famous looks for Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy, has died at the age of 91.

His partner Philippe Venet, a former haute couture designer, confirmed the news to the AFP news agency.

“It is with huge sadness that we inform you that Hubert Taffin de Givenchy has died,” he said via the fashion house.

The designer’s nephews and nieces, and their children, share Mr Venet’s grief, his statement added.

Givenchy was perhaps most famous for creating the iconic “little black dress” worn by Audrey Hepburn in the opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

“It was… an enormous help to know that I looked the part… Then the rest wasn’t so tough anymore. Givenchy’s lovely simple clothes [gave me] the feeling of being whoever I played…,” Hepburn previously said of the designer.

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Audrey Hepburn’s black sheath dress became a byword for elegant simplicity

The friendship between Givenchy and Hepburn endured for 40 years, and helped cement his place in fashion – and cinema – history.

She became his muse, and he designed her suits and woollen dresses for the musical Funny Face in 1957, and the light-hearted heist caper How to Steal a Million in 1966.

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Givenchy came from an aristocratic background, and worked alongside the then unknown Pierre Balmain and Christian Dior after World War Two.

He was employed by the avant-garde designer Elsa Schiaparelli before leaving to found his own fashion house in 1952. There he introduced the concept of “separates” – blouse, skirt, jacket and trouser combinations that could be mixed and matched.

‘The most aristocratic of French designers’

By Hugh Schofield, BBC News, Paris

Hubert de Givenchy was the most aristocratic of French designers, renowned for his own personal elegance and impeccable manners. He was born into a noble French family, and destined initially for the law. But at the end of World War Two, he persuaded his family to let him pursue his passion for clothes.

Fame came in the 1950s, and for three decades, he dressed some of the most beautiful women in the world.

He’s credited with introducing the notion of separates to give women greater freedom to choose, and with being one of the first clothes designers to create his own perfume.

In 1988, he sold his fashion house to the luxury brand LVMH, and a few years later he retired to a life of comfortable discretion. He came from a world of fashion which he acknowledged has now all but disappeared – an age of elegance, where clothes were created out of a unique personal relationship between client and couturier.

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Givenchy’s friendship with Hepburn, who died in 1993, lasted for 40 years

The designer, who stood at a towering 1.98m (6ft 6in), won instant acclaim for his first collection. “These dresses remind you of that first, best, glass of champagne,” one admiring British fashion writer declared.

He swiftly ventured into menswear, and moved to New York to consolidate his success. There his celebrity customers included US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who wore one of his designs to President John F Kennedy’s funeral in 1963.

Screen legend Grace Kelly, who would become princess of Monaco, was another famous client.

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This Givenchy coat was made for Jacqueline Kennedy in 1959

In 1970, Givenchy branched out into furnishing fabrics, and designed interiors for hotels and even a Ford Continental car.

His fashion house’s enduring popularity was clear on this year’s Oscars red carpet, where Black Panther actor Chadwick Boseman wore custom Givenchy, and Wonder Woman’s Gal Gadot chose a gown from the label’s 2018 Haute Couture collection.

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Chadwick Boseman in custom Givenchy at the Oscars

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Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot in Givenchy couture

“Hubert de Givenchy was a symbol of Parisian elegance for more than half a century,” his label said on Monday.

French business magnate Bernard Arnault, head of the luxury goods company LVMH which now owns Givenchy, called the designer “one of the creators who put Paris at the summit of world fashion in the 1950s”.

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