In its 70th year, the house of Givenchy can boast of having dressed some of the most glamorous women in the world, from Audrey Hepburn to the Duchess of Windsor. In recent years, however, the brand has become synonymous with another style leader, helping to shape the image of a fiercely modern princess, Meghan Markle.
When it was announced on May 19, 2018, as Meghan made her way to St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, that her wedding dress had been designed by a French fashion house, it raised eyebrows in the fashion press and royal observers.
It was assumed that as a bride, Meghan would stick to tradition and partner with a British designer for this large commission. However, the choice of bride perfectly blended her own independent approach to marriage in the royal family and, in a way, conformed to the expectations placed on her.
Meghan chose the house of Givenchy to make her wedding dress, and after that much of her wardrobe as a working member of the British royal family was, upon close inspection, appropriate. Givenchy’s artistic director at the time of the wedding was (and remains) British-born designer Clare Waight Keller, fulfilling the royal expectation of princesses acting as patriotic billboards, and the house itself has from close ties to Hollywood due to his meteoric rise to fame to one of the industry’s most glamorous stars.
Meghan’s Givenchy looks have come to define her royal image: strong, elegant and fiercely independent, even at the cost of going against tradition and drawing criticism for the high estimated cost of each outfit. These characteristics are typical of the house founded in 1952, the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne, by a young man keen on aesthetics, Hubert de Givenchy (1927-2018).
The Givenchy man comes from a privileged background and was raised by his mother and grandmother following the premature death of his father. As a teenager, he moved to Paris and trained in the traditional practices of Parisian haute couture of the 1940s. After a time spent perfecting his skills in the great couture houses of Jacques Fath and Elsa Schiaparelli, Givenchy finally opened his own house and launches its first collection of modern creations.
It was only a year after the opening that Hollywood came knocking on Givenchy’s door. Although he enjoyed considerable success from his earliest collections, the designer was still largely unknown outside of Paris, until Audrey Hepburn walked into his salon.
At first, meeting the young star came as a shock to Givenchy who, when told the “Miss Hepburn” actress would be coming to see him, expected to greet Katharine Hepburn instead.
The designer later told author Dana Thomas, “I was told ‘Miss Hepburn’ was coming to get clothes for her new movie, sabrina. As I loved Katharine Hepburn’s style and look, I thought it was fantastic. But when the door to my studio opened, there was a young woman, very thin, very tall, with doe eyes and short hair, wearing tight pants, a small T-shirt, slippers and a gondolier hat with a red ribbon that read ‘Venezia.'”
What followed was an encounter that started one of the most enduring fashion friendships ever. Hepburn adored Givenchy’s designs and the man himself.
Later in life, the star called the designer her “brother” and said of wearing a Givenchy design: “His clothes are the only ones I feel in. He’s more than a designer, he’s a personality creator.”
Givenchy’s designs for Hepburn have gone down in history as some of the most glamorous ever captured on screen, including the iconic little black dress worn as Holly Golightly in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
The key comfort for Hepburn in Givenchy’s designs was the security they gave him. She once said, “Givenchy’s designs have always given me a sense of security and confidence…Givenchy’s outfits have given me ‘protection’ against strange situations and people.”
So perhaps it’s fitting that when the time comes for Meghan, another American actress, to choose a designer for a dress that will be worn in the strange situation of a royal wedding, she should turn to the source of Hepburn’s “trust”.
During her time as a working member of the Royal Family, Meghan debuted a succession of show-stopping outfits from Givenchy. Along with her wedding dress, Meghan took the design of her first Royal Ascot outfit home with the resulting white shirt-style dress, true to the brand’s founding aesthetic.
Other Givenchy highlights at Meghan include the outfit worn during a rare solo engagement with the Queen in 2018, as well as an asymmetrical evening dress worn to present Waight Keller with the designer of the year award. at the British Fashion Awards.
Like Hepburn before her, Meghan found in Givenchy a source of stylish confidence and the resulting wardrobe, which was curated collaboratively by client and designer, helped Meghan define her image as a modern-day royal. with a unique and independent vision. .