Talented, titled, and très, très beau, Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy was born on February 21, 1927. The aristocratic line came through his father’s side and the artistic talents came through his mother’s side, the Badins. They were directors and artists at the prestigious Gobelins and Beauvais tapestry factories. When de Givenchy decided that he wanted to be a designer, he studied at l’École des Beaux Arts in Paris. He started work with family friend, famed designer Jacques Fath. There, he rubbed shoulders with a couple of unknown young designers – Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain. From Fath, he moved on to work with Elsa Schiaparelli. De Givenchy founded his own fashion house in 1952. His big break came only a year later when he was hired to do all of Audrey Hepburn’s costumes for the Cinderella-tale Sabrina. This led to a life-long collaboration between the two, including perfumes, such as L’Intrigue. Some of his other clients included Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Diana Vreeland, and the Duchess of Windsor. Today, the House of Givenchy is part of the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH. De Givenchy retired in 1995 and lives in Paris.
Today’s expression, marcher la tête haute (marshay lah tet oat) literally means “to walk with the head high” or “to walk tall.” Not only does de Givenchy’s walk tall in the annals of great French fashion designers, but he literally walks tall at 6’6”. If he misses designing and would like to whip me up a little something, I’d walk pretty tall, too.