After months of speculation and rumour, the announcement was made yesterday that the British designer John Galliano is to replace Hubert de Givenchy, who, at the age of 68, is retiring from the couture house he opened in 1952.
It will be only the second time a British designer has taken the helm of a couture house in Paris, the first being Charles Frederick Worth in 1857.
Givenchy took his final bow yesterday at the Grand Hotel at the end of a moving show. There were tears in the eyes of almost everyone except the designer, who dedicated his final couture collection to all those who have worked with him during the past 43 years.
He brought out for a bow his entire team of seamstresses and dressers, as well as the wo-man known as Jeanette, who has been with him for over 40 years. She is also retiring.
There is no greater tribute for a designer than to be given a standing ovation by fellow couturiers, not usually invited to one another's shows. But yesterday Yves Saint Laurent stood and clapped, as did Valentino, Oscar de la Renta, Paco Rabanne, Christian Lacroix, Madame Carven, Kenzo, Issey Miyake and Claude Montana.
Photographs of Givenchy's work through the years were displayed around the hotel, showing a rare display of continuity over the decades. The final collection was no exception, with quiet, tasteful suits for day, refined velvet cocktail dresses, and exquisitely draped dresses for evening.
But the continuity will be irrevocably broken when Galliano shows his first collection in January. The 35-year-old British designer, who will now surely throw off the "enfant terrible" tag that has followed his career since leaving St Martin's in 1984, is expected to maintain the spirit of the couture house and respect its legacy.
The appointment will inject new life into both Givenchy and haute couture itself.
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