PARIS — During the last 25 years, Hubert de Givenchy kindly granted me several interviews. Each time, he spoke warmly about his dear friend and most devoted client, Audrey Hepburn. Here are some excerpts.
How did you first meet her?
Paramount Studios called. I was told that “Miss Hepburn” was coming to look for clothes for her new movie, “Sabrina.” Since I loved Katharine Hepburn’s style and look, I thought this was fantastic. But when the door of my studio opened, there stood a young woman, very slim, very tall, with doe eyes and short hair and wearing a pair of narrow pants, a little T-shirt, slippers and a gondolier’s hat with red ribbon that read “Venezia.” I told her “Mademoiselle, I would love to help you, but I have very few sewers, I am in the middle of doing a collection, I can’t make you clothes.” So she said, “Show me what you have already made for the collection.” She tried on the dresses — “It’s exactly what I need!” — and they fit her, too. We just changed the top of the evening dress when she dances with William Holden in the tennis court from black jersey to a white organza bustier since it was for a summer ball.
How did you design for her?
Audrey was someone who knew perfectly how to dress, and knew perfectly what she should wear. What counted was her eyes, her face and her silhouette. We refined, purified, cleared away for her face. We had to, as I would say, surround Audrey. The results were extraordinary because her face and her style became my style.
She served as the first “face” of a perfume, for you. How did that come about?
I said to her: “I’m creating this perfume called Interdit, and I want it to be your perfume for all the women in the world.” She immediately understood and she said, “You can use my picture.” We didn’t pay a million dollars for Miss Hepburn to be our brand image. All that happened with truth, friendship. We understood each other.
What made her so special?
She had an elegance, she knew how to walk, she knew what she wanted, she knew the faults in her face, she knew herself perfectly. She was true, honest. From time to time I’d say, because she was so thin, “Wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t show your collarbone?” And she’d say, “No, it doesn’t bother me.” As Billy Wilder said, “What counts in Audrey is her allure.” And she was kind. When the telephone would ring in the studio, I knew when it was her. I would answer and she’d say, “I know you are busy, but I want to send you a big kiss,” and she’d hang up. That was Audrey.