By Lale Arikoglu. Photos: Courtesy Givenchy/Fondation Bolle.
Where would our wardrobes be without Audrey Hepburn? Most of us are too young to have witnessed her rise from fledgling actress in the early 1950s to one of the most timeless movie stars of the twentieth century, but how many shift dresses, cigarette pants, or bateau necklines have been purchased by women over past decades—or even, say, just last week? At this point, it’s almost impossible to speak or write about the actress without resorting to words like ‘iconic’, so congruous she is with fashion and popular culture. But a group of new exhibits are set to give Hepburn fans a new perspective, with a look at the woman behind the icon through the eyes of Hubert de Givenchy, founder of French fashion house Givenchy and Hepburn's longtime friend and collaborator.
In a series of three concurrent exhibitions opening May 20, titled Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy: The Elegant Friendship, a collection of previously unseen photographs, dresses worn by Hepburn on- and- off-screen, and a bounty of Givenchy’s sketches and designs will go on show across the Expo Fondation Bolle, Morges Castle, and Musée Alexis-Forel in Morges, Switzerland. While it’s far from the first time the pair’s relationship has been celebrated—last year the book Audrey and Givenchy: A Fashion Love Affair was published by Running Press—the collection of imagery, accessories, and clothes (there will also be a documentary screened at Fondation Bolle) seeks to pay homage to a friendship that Givenchy, now 90, recently described as a “kind of marriage.”
One rare photograph going on display (as depicted above), taken in the 1950s, captures Hepburn during a fitting with Givenchy, then a young designer in his twenties with only a handful of couture presentations behind him. She’s trying on a cream, bejeweled couture dress, with one elegant, low heeled pump peeking out from underneath a billowing skirt. The photo is a wonderful glimpse into the Givenchy archive, but is also an opportunity to see the actress's style evolution in the making. "His are the only clothes in which I am myself,” Hepburn once said of her friend. “He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality."
The exhibit stretches far beyond when the two first met on the set of Hepburn’s breakout film Sabrina (Givenchy initially turned down the opportunity to style her, but she persisted and eventually got her way). There’s the hot pink, rhinestone-studded cocktail dress from Breakfast at Tiffany’s in 1961, a long, floaty 1965 negligée dress in a shade that in 2017 could only be described as “millennial pink,” and a black and white patterned day dress she wore in her late fifties circa 1989.
There is a poignancy to choosing Morges, a small town on Lake Geneva known for its annual tulip festival, as the venue for the exhibitions: The actress called the region home for some thirty years before her death, and she is buried in a cemetery not too far from the museums. “Mr. Hubert de Givenchy gave me a real gift by offering to exhibit his pieces in our museums," Expo Fondation Bolle curator, Salvatore Gervasi, said in a statement. "I would like to share it with the whole of Switzerland, the fans of Audrey Hepburn, the enthusiasts of haute couture, the curious, the young and the not so young, as well as all those who will feel the desire to bring out in the open his elegant and masterly creations.”
This story originally appeared on Conde Nast Traveler.
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