PARIS — The announcement that John Galliano will be the new designer at the house of Givenchy will be made today.
Bernard Arnault, chairman of LVMH, the conglomerate that owns Givenchy, confirmed to WWD Monday that Galliano will be the house’s new designer. At this point, however, Arnault said Galliano will design only couture, not ready-to-wear. Galliano will continue to design his own ready-to-wear collection, according to reliable sources.
The decision to hire Galliano was made months ago, but has been kept secret until this week so as not to distract attention from Hubert de Givenchy’s last couture show. And Givenchy executives are still trying to keep a tight lid on the news.
In fact, Hubert de Givenchy didn’t even know Galliano had been chosen when WWD interviewed him Monday. “They have not informed me,” Givenchy declared. “I know nothing about the person coming in. No one in the house knows. I built this house, my name is on it and you think they would have told me.” Givenchy indicated he has never met Galliano.
A suntanned and handsome Givenchy was not bitter, however. Just the opposite, in fact. At 68, he says he is looking forward to a busy retirement. “How lucky I have been to be in a mAtier I’ve always dreamed about,” he said, “but now I have so many more things I want to do. God willing, I will be able to travel and do a lot of other things.”
Givenchy plans to devote himself to restoring the Versailles vegetable garden and to raising money for cancer research and for a New York animal hospital whose doctors saved his dog.
Givenchy, who opened his house in 1952 and sold it to Louis Vuitton in 1988 for $45 million, was sitting serenely in his pristine white studio, dressed in his traditional white smock. Beside him sat his faithful assistant Jeannette, who joked she spent more time with the couturier than her husband. They were surrounded by the sketches of the collection he will show today.
The show will obviously be an emotional experience, both for Givenchy and for a lot of other people. Several designers, including Christian Lacroix and, possibly, Yves Saint Laurent, will attend, as will a hefty chunk of social Paris.
“The only thing I’m really sad about is that I’m going to miss all the people I’ve worked with, especially those in the atelier,” Givenchy said. “We have seen the most beautiful days of the couture. I’ve met the most extraordinary people, like Audrey Hepburn and Mrs. [Bunny] Mellon. But now that’s all changing, and it’s time to go.”