The lore has it that Audrey Hepburn in 1953 headed to Paris to acquire clothes by Balenciaga for her role in Sabrina — but the designer sent her off to the new atelier of his former student, Hubert de Givenchy, who thought he was meeting Katharine Hepburn. The result was a professional association that saw Audrey wearing his clothes in not just Sabrina, but Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Funny Face, Love in the Afternoon, Charade, Paris When it Sizzles, and How To Steal a Million. One wonders if Cristobal Balenciaga regretted that pass, because not only did their relationship make a legend of the Givenchy name and aesthetic, but Hubert also got the chance to be part of Audrey’s Oscar. He took an Edith Head original that was made for Sabrina and turned it into the white frock that Hepburn wore to accept her award for Roman Holiday — a dress that has topped a lot of all-time Oscars lists, is considered among the most iconic in history, and was the first time viewers had seen her in Givenchy (Sabrina didn’t come out until after the 1954 Oscars). They were so closely associated thereafter, for so long, that The New York Times referred to their professional and personal friendship as “the original Brand Ambassadors.” It’s true, and as that piece notes, in many ways it exposes what feels shallow about today’s partnerships. So many of them are money-driven, or based solely on notoriety and who is of-the-moment. The pairings can seem hollow, and at times inorganic. Hepburn and Givenchy happened naturally, and they evolved together — she was the face of his perfume not because of who she is, but because he created it for her — through a full forty years of platonic partnership, until her death in 1993. Hubert passed in 2018, hopefully after having locked himself in a castle somewhere for enough years that he never saw what frequent horrors Riccardo Tisci (and at times Clare Waight Keller) wrought in his name.
Anyway, we might as well have a look at a couple of Audrey’s other Oscars frocks while we’re here. We can never have too much Hepburn.