For the first 43 years of its existence, the house of Givenchy was a monument to conservative good taste. Even so, right out of the box, innovation was also part of the equation. Hubert de Givenchy made a mark with his debut collection in 1952: It was based on separates, which a woman could mix and match rather than wear slavishly as demonstrated by a designer, and that was a novel concept for the time. That the couturier was the youngest on Paris’s scene (and a very handsome 6-foot-6) didn’t hurt his reviews either.
Givenchy was taken under the wing of the Spanish master Cristóbal Balenciaga, and afterward his work became less obviously youth oriented. He and his mentor were described by The New York Times as “undisputedly the world’s most prophetic designers.” During this era he introduced (simultaneously with Balenciaga) the revolutionary chemise, or sack dress, acclaimed as “a genuinely new fashion shape.” He is also credited with pioneering the princess silhouette, and when the cinematic sprite Audrey Hepburn first donned Givenchy’s Little Black Dress, his name became forever linked with the Sabrina neckline.