If these chairs could talk

Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy was born in Beauvais, a town north of Paris, where his grandfather was the director of the B...


Count Hubert James Marcel Taffin de Givenchy was born in Beauvais, a town north of Paris, where his grandfather was the director of the Beauvais and Gobelins tapestry workshops. Mr. de Givenchy chose fashion design as a career, and while working for Elsa Schiaparelli after World War II, he fell in love with Mr. Venet, a fellow assistant. They move in together, then each open a fashion house. Mr. de Givenchy made an international reputation for dressing Audrey Hepburn for her film roles, including “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” in 1961.

American philanthropist Catherine Blair, known as Deeda, met Mr. de Givenchy in the early 1960s. She wore a Balenciaga dress and Givenchy veil when she married William McCormick Blair, the United States Ambassador in Denmark in 1961 and became a devoted Givenchy customer. At the time, Mr. de Givenchy and Mr. Venet lived on Rue Fabert, “with a Rothko on the wall, dark, dim screens on the ceiling and books all over the coffee table,” Ms Blair recalls.

“Hubert was already successful,” she said. “And he was already collecting perfection. There was never anything trivial. There was never anything ordinary. Their apartment was small but enormously, totally, scholarly perfection, and very original. If I had to describe Hubert in one word, I would say disciplined.

In the mid-1980s, Mr. de Givenchy told Mrs. Blair that he had fallen in love with a house. “He said, ‘This is my dream house, and it’s very big’ and I said, ‘Oh, Hubert, I would love to see it.’ And you couldn’t believe such a thing survived the revolution. But there it was. He knew exactly what he was going to do with it. He had a perfect pitch for where the furniture should go, where it should fall in. the world. This house was his great, great to like.”

“All his sofas were made by Maison Decour, the Rolls-Royce of comfortable sofas,” said Susan Gutfreund, who together with her husband, John Gutfreund, managing director of investment bank Salomon Brothers, owned the apartment on the west side of the Paris property. Ms Gutfreund preferred “the wonderful tiger-print velvet chairs”.

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