The yellow brick Art-Deco museum is solid and striking and an icon of its time. Built between 1931 and 1935, it was designed by the Dutch architect H. P. Berlage, described as the Dutch Frank Lloyd Wright. Berlage believed this would be his greatest work but unfortunately it was also to be his last as he died a year before the building was finished. Its light and spacious interior and still-contemporary colour scheme present a venue which is most apt for this gorgeous exhibition of clothes designed for Audrey Hepburn by Hubert de Givenchy.
This collection, called Hubert de Givenchy – To Audrey with Love, gives a warm insight into Hubert de Givenchy’s career, many of his favourite creations, and, equally important, his close friendship with Audrey Hepburn. Part of the exhibition highlights their personal and professional association which began in 1953.
Givenchy created some of Ms Hepburn’s most celebrated film costumes. They were seen in such movies as How to steal a Million, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Charade. One can see these and more along with sketches, magazine covers and memorabilia at this unmissable exhibition presented in cooperation with UNICEF Netherlands.
This is not the first Givenchy exhibition here. In 1988 the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague presented a show called ‘Hubert de Givenchy: Haute Couture worn by Audrey Hepburn’; both Audrey Hepburn and Hubert de Givenchy attended the launch.
Audrey Hepburn was de Givenchy’s muse and it’s easy to see why she captured the heart of this renowned designer. She had a unique and fresh beauty which lasted through the decades; but she is also remembered for her personal qualities of genuine compassion, generosity and natural charm. M. de Givenchy relates that Ms Hepburn would greet electricians on the film sets just as readily as she would the director or her co-stars.
In 1988 she became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, the organization that works to improve the lives of children around the world. She travelled to impoverished countries to draw attention to the importance of education and healthcare. There is a gallery devoted to Ms Hepburn’s work with UNICEF and to raise funds for the organisation. A proportion of the profits from merchandise will be donated, as will money collected from the popular photo booth where wannabe stars can dress in hats and dark glasses and dream of being on the cover of Vogue!
Hubert de Givenchy was born on 21 February 1927 in Beauvais, Oise, and design was in his blood. He was the younger son of Lucien Taffin de Givenchy, Marquis of Givenchy, and his wife, Béatrice Badin. Givenchy’s maternal great-grandfather, Jules Dieterle, was a set designer who also created artwork for the Beauvais tapestry factory, and for the Elysée Palace. One of his great-great-grandfathers also designed sets for the Paris Opera.
The first meeting between Hepburn and Givenchy, who would remain friends for four decades, started with a misunderstanding. M. de Givenchy was actually expecting Katharine, the only Hepburn of whom he had heard. However, Audrey had evidently heard of Hubert de Givenchy. His clients would include Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Maria Callas, Marlene Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the Duchess of Windsor.
Audrey impressed M. de Givenchy on that very first meeting. She had youthful elfin beauty and wore simple Capri pants, flat shoes and a tee-shirt – a style considered ultra-casual for an actress at that time. She begged the designer to make her wardrobe for the film Sabrina. He explained to Audrey that there was no time for him to produce a bespoke movie wardrobe but that she could look at already-finished costumes and take her pick. That proved to be a wise invitation!
Audrey Hepburn was undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest beauties, and considered one of the best-dressed women. The costumes designed by M. de Givenchy defined an era but they still resonate with lovers of well-cut clothes these days. Clean lines, elegance and well-chosen materials with thoughtfully paired accessories still turn heads. This marvellous exhibition shows that good taste lasts. It’s a must-visit for any lover of the films of Audrey Hepburn or of the iconic couturier Hubert de Givenchy. It’s a positive delight of fabric and form.
The exhibition: Hubert de Givenchy – To Audrey with Love, runs from 26 November 2016 to 26 March 2017.
Gemeentemuseum Den Haag
2517 HV Den Haag
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018