'Little black dress' designer Givenchy dies aged 91

In this file photo taken on October 21, 1991, French designers Yves Saint-Laurent and Hubert de Givenchy, right, pose together in the Galliera Museum during a reception honoring Givenchy for his 40 years in fashion. - AFP

PARIS - Hubert de Givenchy, the aristocratic French fashion designer famous for the "little black dress" and styling Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, has died aged 91.

Givenchy set the template for ladylike chic in the 1950s and 1960s, dressing everyone from Princess Grace of Monaco to Jane Fonda.

His longtime partner announced his death through the Givenchy fashion house, saying he had died in his sleep on Sunday.

"It is with huge sadness that we inform you that Hubert Taffin de Givenchy has died," it said in a statement on Monday.

With his perfect manners and old-school charm, the tall and handsome count was the very acme of French elegance and refinement.

But it was his 40-year friendship with his muse Hepburn, whom he met while she was making Billy Wilder's Oscar-winning comedy "Sabrina" in 1953, that helped make him a fashion legend.

The narrow-collared suits and slim woolen dresses Givenchy designed for the gamine actress in "Funny Face" and "How to Steal a Million" made both of them style icons.

The black sheath dress Givenchy created for the opening scenes of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was perhaps the most famous "little black dress" of all time - even if fellow Coco Chanel is credited with inventing the garment.

"His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality," Hepburn once said of him.

"To dress a woman is to make her beautiful," Givenchy once said. "In haute couture, we are cosmetic surgeons, erasing imperfections and refining the silhouette... for isn't a couturier a magician of sorts, who creates illusion and perhaps beauty itself?" - AFP