Hubert de Givenchy leads a quiet life away from the limelight of the fashion world – and the fashion house he founded in 1952, sold to LVMH in 1988 and left in 1995 when he retired. But the 83-year-old fashion legend made a rare public appearance to talk to students at Oxford University Union. Of course the first questions that came up were about the direction the house of Givenchy has taken in his 15 year absence (now with Riccardo Tisci at the helm). To which he reportedly evaded commenting directly on. “I think when you sell your company, and are no longer the master of driving it, it’s quite difficult,” he says. “I don’t think I have any interest any more. It’s better like that.”
Givenchy is not a fan of modern fashion, saying that some collections as just there to sell bags and shoes with many designers out of touch with reality by showing “impossible, crazy clothes” rather than “thinking about the life of a woman”.
Was this was a comment on fashion designers like Lee Alexander McQueen (his infamous Armadillo shoe comes to mind) as the pair were known to not like each other. McQueen once called Givenchy “irrelevant” at the start of the British designer’s unhappy tenure at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001, while Givenchy had chosen his successor but instead LVMH had chosen John Galliano who lasted a year and a half before McQueen stepped in.
That’s not to say he wasn’t appreciative other fashion designers, calling Cristobal Balenciaga his hero and “a great architect” because “all the proportions of Balenciaga are strong, modern, wonderful”.
Known for his elegant and classic design aesthetic, Givenchy comments that elegance is not something you can achieve.
“You must, if it’s possible, be born with a kind of elegance. It is a part of you, of yourself,” he says. “You must keep it simple … and the more pretty you look, the more love affairs you will have.”
As for Audrey Hepburn, his long-time friend and muse?
“From that day on, until she died – too early for me – the friendship was really like a special love affair.”