Backstage at Givenchy’s First Collection – Spring 1952

The Bettina Collection takes Paris by surprise –

In memory of model Bettina Graziani – died March 2nd 2015.

Givenchy---Ivy Nicholson - Sophia Malgat and Bettina - NR-Farbman-Life-Magazine
Givenchy—Ivy Nicholson – Sophia Malgat and Bettina – NR-Farbman-Life-Magazine

To Americans attending Paris Fashion Week for the Spring collections, the time hardly seemed propitious for anyone to be opening a new house – least of all for a youngster without too much money. High costs had forced four houses out of business last year, including the famous old names of Molyneux and Piguet, and high prices had cut sales in others by up to 20%.

Givenchy with Bettina Grazia model —photo by NR-Farbman

But after the unveiling the two most talked about designers were the old master, Dior and a brash newcomer, Hubert de Givenchy, who was just 25 last month on February21st.


The tallest ( 6 feet, 7 inches) and youngest designer in Paris, De Givenchy had been an apprentice designer for Fath, Piguet and Schiaparelli.


Out on his own, with a shoestring staff and cramped space, he was able to reduce his average prices by a third. It was not his prices however, but his designs, which earned him the biggest salon ovation heard in five years and sales of seven million francs ($20,000) on the first day, spectacular for a new and small couture house.


The ModelBettina Graziani

At the center of all the chaos is Givenchys beautiful team-mate – former Jacques Fath model Bettina Graziani ( for whom Givenchy has named his first collection).


Bettina has resigned her position as top model in Paris, and joined the new salon as Givenchys press agent and muse, and apart from modelling the gowns, and working furiously behind a typewriter, she was even spotted setting up seats at the show, ironing gowns for the other principal models Ivy Nicholson, Gigi Terwalgne and Sophie Malgat and making lots of coffee!


For a model who can fetch the attention of the top couturiers in Paris, her commitment to the young Givenchy has been a major boost, as far as the eager press and buyers are concerned.
Before the opening, Bettina, 26, beat the publicity drums, pulling in her model friends like Ivy Nicholson and notifying all the top US fashion editors to ensure they would attend the show.

Givenchy---NR-Farbman-Model Bettina - Life Magazine 1952
Givenchy—NR-Farbman-Model Bettina – Life Magazine 1952

One item – a blouse with high buttoned cuffs and black embroidered ruffles, she modelled has already been labelled “the Bettina Blouse” by the local press here in Paris.

The Gowns


Givenchy’s designs were not necessarily influenced by American ideas, but they are sure to succeed in the US and amongst the younger starlets of Hollywood.
They are youthful and full of fresh ideas, with emphasis on separate skirts and tops and the accessory odds and ends which appeal to younger women of today.


His small collection ranged from coats and gowns that compete easily with seasoned couturiers, to fashion gimmicks like a paper lantern-pleated babushka, big sleeved blouses in washable shirting and “Garbo” hats.

First Givenchy Collection 1952 - Ironing in the bathroom - NR-Farbman-Life-Magazine
First Givenchy Collection 1952 – Ironing in the bathroom – NR-Farbman-Life-Magazine

The dresses were displayed in a show as smoothly elegant as the most experienced house in Paris could have put on – in quarters so cramped that last minute ironing was being done in the bathroom!

Sophie-Malgat models Givenchy 1952

That’s all !

Transcription and editing © Glamourdaze
Sections originally published in Life Mgazine 1952

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