Remember the ‘little black dress’ that Audrey Hepburn donned in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? Known as one of the most iconic dresses in cinema history, it was designer Hubert de Givenchy’s ode to the actress — his muse for nearly a decade.
In the world of fashion, muses are usually a source of creative inspiration for the designer. The latter creates outfits influenced by or based on aspects of their muse’s personality and appearance. Many of these designs may eventually go on to become trends or — like Givenchy’s LBD — be immortalised in sartorial history forever.
Over the years, we’ve seen these glitzy associations become friendships that have given us some of fashion’s most notable moments. From Givenchy and Hepburn to Karl Lagerfeld and Vanessa Paradis, here’s a look at some well-known relationships between fashion designers and muses we have seen over the years.
Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn
If you are a fan of the classics — both movies and fashion — then you’ll remember the black dress Audrey Hepburn wore in the 1961 hit Breakfast at Tiffany’s opening scene. One of the most iconic dresses in Hollywood history, the Italian silk dress was designed by Givenchy.
The duo struck up a friendship during the shooting of Sabrina in 1953 for which Givenchy fitted her in costumes from his collection, marking the beginning of one of the most successful designer-muse relationships. The French couturier went on to create outfits for Hepburn in acclaimed films such as Charade, Funny Face, Love in the Afternoon and How to Steal a Million.
Other than films, Givenchy also designed Hepburn’s pink jersey mini wedding dress for her nuptials with Andrea Dotti in 1969 and the white floral gown for the 26th Annual Academy Awards where she won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for Roman Holiday.
Even Hepburn’s favourite fragrance, L’Interdit, was a Givenchy creation. Around two years before her death in 1993, Hepburn said of Givenchy, “Very few words can express 40 years of friendship, and his clothes for me have not only thrilled me, but given me so much confidence.”
Recalling their friendship, the designer, who was by her side when she died, once said, “She persuaded me, how lucky I was to have accepted.” In 2014, he authored To Audrey With Love — a picture book featuring original sketches of his many beautiful creations.
Yves Saint Laurent and Betty Catroux
In March 2020, an exhibition titled Betty Catroux, Yves Saint Laurent: Feminine Singular was held at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris. This was the first time an exhibition was dedicated to someone other than the designer — a result of the duo’s 35-year relationship which lasted till his death in 2008. They first met at Chez Régine, a nightclub in Paris, in 1967 and soon developed a deep friendship.
The model’s lean frame, sharp features and androgynous looks inspired Laurent to create outfits with slick and strong designs for women, including the Le Smoking tuxedo — the iconic pantsuit that broke the norm of conventional fashion codes for women and became a symbol of sexual empowerment. Laurent called the model his “feminine double” and Catroux said, “What was amazing about him was that he felt that I could be his soul mate—a kindred spirit.”
Prabal Gurung and Zoe Saldana
It’s not a surprise that the Nepalese-American designer calls Zoe Saldana his muse. She was one of the first A-list celebrities to don his creation — a red one-shouldered mini with a bow — in 2009, the same year Prabal Gurung launched his first collection.
Today, they are good friends. In a 2012 interview with Hollywood Reporter, the Guardians of the Galaxy actress called him a “true artist.” Gurung has dressed Saldana on several special occasions, including the 2014 Golden Globes and Chris Pratt’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony three years later. Saldana was also his date for the 2012 Council of the Fashion Designers of America Awards, where she wore a black floor-length gown with sheer panels and sleeves.
When Saldana welcomed twins in 2014, Gurung congratulated her with an Instagram post in which he called her his muse. “Congratulations to my dearest darling friend and my muse @zoesaldana (and her husband) on the arrival of their twins,” he captioned a collage of her images sporting the 2009 red dress.
Marc Jacobs and Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola and Marc Jacobs met during the premiere of his “grunge” collection in 1992. They bonded over their shared love for music and arts which quickly turned into a friendship. In 2015, Jacobs shared an image of Coppola in one of his dresses from the Autumn/Winter 2015 campaign saying, “Sofia was one of the few who recognised something special and related to what I was doing at that time…Not only was I attracted to how she looked, her sense of style, I was drawn to her manner, her behaviour, her life, her ambitions and creativity.”
Coppola almost exclusively wears Marc Jacobs at all major events, including the sleek aubergine gown for the 2004 Oscars where she won Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Lost in Translation, silky gunmetal pyjamas at the 2013 Met Gala, and an embroidered leaf-print T-shirt gown at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
The friends have also collaborated on many other projects. She modelled for his first fragrance in 2002 and directed a commercial for another, Daisy Dream, in 2013.
In 2020, Coppola’s oldest daughter Romy Croquet became the face of Jacobs’ latest line, Heaven. Among the ensembles Romy was seen wearing was a printed army green T-shirt with “your screaming automatic pain” written on it, a green hoodie with pink bears, and a sweater featuring actor Robert Duval’s face.
Riccardo Tisci and Mariacarla Boscono
Mariacarla Boscono and Riccardo Tisci have been friends since 1999 when he graduated from London’s Central Saint Martins Academy.
In fact, it was the celebrated Italian model who helped Tisci launch his debut collection in 2004 after he returned to Milan from India with dresses designed by him in New Delhi. Boscono helped Tisci find models who would walk for him without charging a fee. The show, which was marked by its Gothic theme interspersed with Catholic imagery, was a hit. Tisci hosted his second show in February 2005 where Boscono walked the runway in a floor-sweeping black cardinal coat. The tremendous success of the two shows translated into Givenchy appointing Tisci as its creative director the same year.
Since then, Boscono has walked for the designer on several occasions, including showcasing his collections made for Givenchy. She has also worn Tisci for events like the 2019 Met Gala, which she attended in an eye-catching golden sequinned gown. Tisci left Givenchy to join Burberry in 2018 and Boscono most recently modelled for the brand’s Spring/Summer 2021 collection.
The two have heaped praises on each other on several occasions and have acknowledged that they are “like brother and sister”. Tisci calls Boscono his guardian angel and she, in turn, says he is her muse as much as she is his.
Nicolas Ghesquière and Charlotte Gainsbourg
The French fashion designer invited Charlotte Gainsbourg, the actress daughter of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, to his debut show for Balenciaga in 1997 and the two struck a friendship that only got stronger over the years.
She has been the face of Nicolas Ghesquière‘s creations and has starred in Balenciaga’s ready-to-wear campaigns. Clothing and accessories that Ghesquière designed for the actress include a Neoprene jungle print scuba top from Spring/Summer 2003, black aviator jacket from Fall/Winter 2004, semi-sheer black runway top from Spring/Summer 2010 and print trousers from the Resort 2012 collections.
Gainsbourg also played an important role in the creation of Balenciaga Paris, the first of his fragrances launched in 2010. She was the face of the perfume and selected the final scent after Ghesquière shortlisted two options.
Gainsbourg remained the designer’s muse when he moved to Louis Vuitton in 2013. She appeared in a custom-made shimmery top and skirt by Vuitton at the premiere of 3 Coeurs during the 71st Venice Film Festival in 2014.
Gianni Versace and Donatella Versace
Even before Gianni Versace started the eponymous fashion brand in 1978, he found a muse in his sister Donatella. According to the book Versace by Ingrid Sischy, Gianni asked an 11-year-old Donatella to dye her hair platinum blonde like his favourite singer Patty Pravo. Donatella’s look, which she has maintained to date, was also the inspiration for Gianni’s 1995 perfume Blonde.
Gianni’s creations for his sister have always been eye-catching. The Versace jacket Donatella wore at the opening of the brand’s Paris boutique in 1991 featured Andy Warhol’s famous technicolour print of Marilyn Monroe. Then there was the iconic bondage-inspired top and leather skirt paired with tall black boots which she wore to the 1993 Met Gala with her brother as her plus one. The dress, titled Miss S&M, was from Gianni’s 1992 Fall collection.
Donatella — who had a more minimalist approach to design in contrast to his baroque style — was also Gianni’s creative force to whom he often turned for advice. In a 2017 interview with The Guardian, 20 years after Gianni’s death, Donatella said, “I was his doll and best friend…I worked with him every day. I was much more than a muse.”
Karl Lagerfeld and Vanessa Paradis
Vanessa Paradis has been an ambassador of Karl Lagerfeld‘s Chanel since 1991. She was the face of the brand’s Coco L’Esprit de Chanel fragrance at the time. Her appearance in the 1992 birdcage video for the product also helped propel her career as an actress and singer.
A regular at Chanel’s fashion shows, Paradis has appeared in dresses designed by Lagerfeld for her musical performances as well as important events such as the 2009 Sidaction AIDS Benefit Gala in Paris, where she wore an oversized teddy bear fur dress.
Among the many collaborations between Paradis and Lagerfeld were a Cambon leather goods ad campaign in 2004 and one for the New Mademoiselle handbag in 2005. She also sang at the Cabaret Chanel Club during the “Paris-Shanghai” show in December 2009. Around a year before Lagerfeld’s death in 2019, she wore his lace-embroidered Métiers d’art dress for the music video of her song Ces Mots Simples.
Such was their relationship that Paradis’ daughter Lily-Rose Depp, too, became part of the Chanel family and was the face of the brand’s No.5 L’Eau fragrance from 2016 to 2019.
(Main and featured images: Getty and Wireimage/Popsugar; AP file/NBC News; Marcjacobsintl/ Facebook)