Farewell, Maestro







By Michelle Crowe



Hubert de Givenchy on the runway of his final Haute Couture collection, 1995. AP photo.


In June of 1996 I joined a merry band of fashion die-hards in the New York Magazine office of the truly extraordinary editor Jade Hobson Charnin.

Physically, it was the opposite of glamorous–the corner office with what must have been an executive dining room at one time of a nondescript floor of offices on Second Avenue.


A still from Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Givenchy’s divine black dress.


Yet the air was electric with the deliveries of garment bags for shoots, calls from designers and Broadway big wigs and George Clooney and Nicole Kidman filming a movie out on the street.

I was a wide-eyed girl from the Midwest, never really able to tamp down the niceness that’s ingrained in us from childhood and always being told not to show enthusiasm for things. This was not an area in which I excelled.


On the runway with Carla Bruni.


My friendly nature made me good on the phone and in between calling in clothes and booking models, I often fielded the endless public relations pitch calls and the calls placed by my assistant counterparts from the offices of designers around the world.

One day, Jade was working at her desk for a long stretch of time. When the phone trilled, she picked it up herself rather than wait for one of us to do it for her. After a quick hello we heard an exuberant “Ooo-bert!” Proving that even a fashion editor who had perfected her veil of indifference could exhibit genuine gusto when Hubert de Givenchy rang.


Anyone who snapped up a copy of his 2014 book “To Audrey, With Love” owns a true treasure.


Of all the stories in my lovely, fabulous-adjacent life that one is certainly my favorite. Knowing that the great master of French fashion, the lovely man who dressed nearly every lady we love here at Classic Chicago, was on the line just feet away from me still gives me a thrill more than twenty years later.

At the time, LVMH had acquired Givenchy and the master had retired. Bernard Arnault hired John Galliano and then Alexander McQueen to design for the house. And sometimes the clothes were shocking and in McQueen’s case they could be wildly unattractive to an eye accustomed to feminine elegance, especially when that eye belonged to the man whose name they bore.


So elegant in a trench walking with Audrey Hepburn.


As new designers were named to the house over the years I always remember that day and the man who made everything he touched beautiful.

I thought of him many times this week upon the news of his passing, happy that the images of his beautiful designs were flooding feeds all over the world, and wistful for the thousandth time that I didn’t pick up the phone that day.


Photographed by Robert Doisneau in his atelier.