It’s one of the most iconic cinematic scenes of all time: Audrey Hepburn (as character Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) dines on a takeaway croissant and coffee as she stares wistfully at the window of jeweller’s 5th Avenue store.

Hepburn is magnetic in the role, but what the world remembers most of that scene is the outfit she’s wearing, specifically the black column dress designed by her lifelong friend, Hubert de Givenchy.

Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly) wearing Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s most famous scene
Credit: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Today, as news breaks of the passing of the designer at age 91, we remember the French couturier who directly influenced the way we perceive the 1950s and ‘60s style.

Widely regarded one of the first designers to master the “Little Black Dress”, his relationship with best friend Audrey Hepburn helped make him a household name – not that he needed celebrity help in that department given his collections already had him on the fashion world’s radar.

Hubert de Givenchy during the last preparations for the parade of his Spring 1969 collection
Credit: Getty Images

So powerful was his name and brand, every designer who stepped in to head up Givenchy following his retirement was an industry leader of the time too: John Galliano, Alexander McQueen, Julien MacDonald, Riccardo Tisci and Clare Waight Keller, who recently took the reins at the Parisian fashion house.

“He comes from another generation, but at the same time is very humble, just in the way he talks to you and the way he makes you feel,” Waight Keller told British Vogue UK when she was first appointed to the role. “You can tell he absolutely adores women…

“Everywhere around the room he had pictures of Audrey [Hepburn]. There is still this incredible importance in his life of this person who was his muse.”

While the legacy of his incredible fashion and designs speaks for itself, here are a few surprising facts that will surprise you about Monsieur de Givenchy himself.

1. He never intended to work in fashion

Givenchy didn’t originally begin his career in design, but rather in studying law. In 1944, When he realised law did not satisfy his thirst for design, it lead him to relocating to Paris at the age of 17.

It was there he landed an internship alongside Jacques Fath and studied drawing at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, the French National School of Fine Arts.

Over the years, he also worked alongside other big names in fashion, including Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior and Elsa Schiaparelli. Those experiences helped him to establish his own eponymous couture house, Givenchy.

Hepburn with Givenchy in his Parisian workshop
Credit: Getty Images

2. He was the pioneer of deconstructed chic

Hubert de Givenchy may have come from an aristocratic family but his start in fashion was anything but wealthy and glamourous. With little budget to produce his garments, he constructed them using shirting, which is typically used to create prototype designs before then finishing them with more luxurious fabrics such as silk.

This difference in fabric gave him an edge, as did his innovative idea of creating pieces that can be mixed and matched to build a wardrobe with greater versatility. The debut of his first collection was a huge success – buyers loved his cotton shirtings and he was soon able to repay his investors and assume full ownership of his eponymous couture house.

3. He was BFFs with some of the most famous women of his time

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Bettina Graziani and Audrey Hepburn were essentially the 1960s version of today’s influencers, and Hubert de Givenchy saw the power of dressing them. He quickly became famous for dressing celebrities in his chic Parisian clothes.

His most notable relationship was with Audrey Hepburn, whom he met in 1953 and dressed for several movies, including Sabrina and that now iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s gown. The designer’s friendship with the actress – who he once described when recalling their first meeting as “this very thin person with beautiful eyes, short hair, thick eyebrows, very tiny trousers, ballerina shoes and a little T-shirt” – endured until her death at age 63.

Givenchy and Hepburn backstage at his Spring Summer 1992 Haute Couture fashion show in Paris
Credit: Getty Images

4. The bromance between he and rival Cristobal Balenciaga was unequalled

Whilst Givenchy worked alongside and met many different designers, he found a source of inspiration, mentor and eventually close friend in Cristobal Balenciaga.

The pair formed what quickly could be described a fashion powerhouse ‘bromance’ throughout the ‘60s and Givenchy spoke highly of Balenciaga with high esteem until his passing.

“Balenciaga taught me everything I know,” he once said. “He taught me to care for the details, that is was not necessary to sew on a button where it had no use, or to add a flower to make a dress beautiful… no unnecessary detail.”

Givenchy cultivated close friendships with many rival designers, such as Yves Saint Laurent (pictured above with Loulou de la Falaise), but none more so that Cristobal Balenciaga
Credit: Getty Images

5. He was ahead of his time in the fashion feminist stakes

Hubert de Givenchy focused on clothes which accentuated a woman’s beauty, opting for elegance and chic over the style of conformity that ruled the 1950s following World War Two.

His influence on fashion throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s was beautifully surmised by a fashion journalist for the Washington Post in 1995: “Givenchy has long been a classicist, one of the last of the old school of haute couture, where gorgeous clothes were made for a woman to live in, not decorate her. His clothes moved with a woman’s body, rather than restricted it.”

Valé Monsieur de Givenchy. The fashion world has lost a true great.

Audrey Hepburn in that famous Breakfast at Tiffany’s scene