On Monday word reached us that Hubert De Givenchy had died at the age of 91. His famous house of haute couture has endured since 1952 and has dressed the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy, and Audrey Hepburn, who became his muse after they met on a movie set in 1953. Givenchy designed Hepburn’s iconic little black dress which was worn in the famous opening scene of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Over the years, Givenchy’s fashion atelier produced bespoke designer wear, pret-á-porter women’s fashion, men’s fashion and perfumes – but he also had a brief, and unlikely, career in automotive design.
In the late 1970s Ford retained the services of four well-known fashion designers. Three were couturiers – Emilio Pucci, Bill Blass and Hubert de Givenchy – and the fourth was jewellery designer Ralph Destino, of Cartier. The designers were asked to put their personal colour, material and trim selections on special Lincoln Mark V ‘Designer Series’ cars.
The actual designs of the Lincoln Mark V cars themselves were unchanged; these were strictly cosmetic choices. On the exterior they involved paint colours, a designer signature or emblem and the occasional vinyl roof . On the interiors, it was just material and colour choices with some upgraded instrumentation.
It’s not known just what limitations were placed on the designers’ choices. No doubt they were appalled at the relatively crude automotive fabrics and bold colours – all choices first made by Ford specialists who understood the rough-and-tumble life of an automotive interior.
Most of the results were reasonably tasteful, by 1970s standards. But Givenchy’s 1978 Lincoln has been remembered for its ‘Midnight Jade’ colour scheme with matching leather or ‘Majestic Velour’ (!) interior. The next year, he chose ‘Crystal Blue’ as the colour scheme, and later, gold and platinum colors.
The Designer Series lasted from 1976 to 1983, and spanned the product lifecycle of the Mark V and its downsized successor, the Mark VI. The Designer Editions sold reasonably well, even in the truncated design of the Mark VI. But the series was dropped with the introduction of the Mark VII.
The Designer Series lives on, in spirit, in the new Lincoln Navigator Black Label series, with special interior finishes and trim (and an extensive concierge service), which recall the efforts of Givenchy, Blass, Pucci, and Cartier a generation ago.