Tonight Hubert de Givenchy, the French designer who has given the fashion world lasting elegance in his 36-year career, is to be given the first ever state of California Lifetime Achievement Award in the Arts. The official honor, which will be given annually, is in recognition of Givenchy’s contribution to fashion design. The Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Wilshire is packed with more than 500 celebs and powerhouses. The names, the faces, even the jewelry seem oh-so-familiar. Yet even the most jaded agree there is something special in the air—a certain je ne sais quoi. Perhaps it’s the hotter-than-hot fashion models flown in from Paris and New York. The men can’t take their eyes off these exotic creatures. Or, perhaps, says one cynic, it’s the aroma from the bottles of Ysatis and Xeryus—the Givenchy toilet water that the designer has given out as party favors.
Most likely the ambience is defined by the serenely elegant figures cut by Givenchy himself, 61, and his good friend Audrey Hepburn, 59. Serving as honorary chairperson of this event, which will raise $500,000 for the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts Foundation, Hepburn has known Givenchy for 35 years and has worn his creations in Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
“A gorgeous couple,” comments actress Jane Seymour, herself not exactly foie gras in the beauty department. “The two seem made for each other.” Hard to dispute. In looks, height and regal bearing, Audrey and Hubert seem to tower over the rest of the crowd, which includes the likes of Gene Kelly, Loretta Young, Louis Vultton president Henry Racamier, Marvin Davis, Shirlee Fonda, Joan Collins, John Forsythe, Henry Mancini, Donna Mills, Connie Selleca and a liberal sprinkling of French royalty. There’s enough net worth in the room to balance the budget.
Well-heeled as the revelers may be, however, only a handful seem to be wearing Givenchy’s expensive—couture prices start at about $50,000 for a gown—ultraluxe creations. “Maybe I’ll buy one when my ship comes in,” sighs Shirlee Fonda, who allows she has on “a little something from Saks Fifth Avenue.” She stares off across the floor, where Audrey is resplendent in a red satin Givenchy with matching shoes and a red feather boa. This prompts a comment from Lorna Luft. “Audrey could wear a burlap bag,” says Lorna, “and still look gorgeous.”
Nevertheless, the fashion show—a slick panorama of Givenchy’s best work from the ’50s through the ’80s—is a smashing success. And afterward, as the guests leave, Givenchy speaks for the many. “The evening,” he says, “has been superb.”