Hubert de Givenchy's mother liked Givenchy III best, but he likes his newest scent, Ysatis. When the French fashion couture came to Los Angeles recently, it was to introduce the new perfume, his fourth, at I. Magnin. "Fragrance is like fashion," he says. "Women are always looking for something new."
The morning he spent at the store, an overflow of Givenchy admirers poured onto the sidewalk outside, waiting to shake his hand as if he were Cary Grant. And during lunch at the Bistro Garden (a restaurant Givenchy calls "the bird cage"), maitre d' Kurt Niklas confided to him that women say the couture and the actor look alike. The ever-correct, more-than-6-feet-tall, silver-haired Givenchy recounts this and adds: "I'm flattered."
Padded by a group of four business associates who traveled with him from New York to San Francisco to Los Angeles in 24 hours, he was transported from his luncheon by a white stretch limousine to the Bel-Air Hotel where he stayed just long enough to finish half a glass of mineral water. Then back to the car and off to shop on Rodeo Drive before a cocktail party in his honor. It wasn't just a pleasure cruise.
"I hope one day to have my own boutique in Beverly Hills," he says. This would be in addition to his shops in New York and Paris.
"It gives me great satisfaction to fix and change things and give suggestions about how to dress the windows. This is difficult to do in someone else's store. In your own boutique, you are the master." He wants both boutique and specialty-store business. He explains: "To take all my things and put them in my own shop is not wise. The boutique could be a disaster."
Givenchy seems to size up every situation with the same calm tone of voice. Although he is an obvious workaholic, he doesn't need his custom-made, pale, gray suit and his white-collared pale blue shirt, his dust-free loafers or his gold signet ring to soften his genteel manner.
He says he researched his Ysatis fragrance (the name evokes mythology but in fact has no meaning) for two years.
"After Givenchy III, we needed something that was not aggressive but a change," he says. "Ysatis makes me think of Ava Gardner. Sensual and seductive."
He has also spent years researching the proper decorum for fragrance. "What is important is not that the scent attack you or that it stay and stay. I like it to emanate."
It doesn't matter that a woman be identified with one particular perfume, he says. "A scent becomes passe. A person must stay with the epoch."
He tells women to select a fragrance the way they select a hair style: "Find a fragrance that you like, not only you but your lover. Choose one that you know is good for you and stay in that direction."
Givenchy's Ysatis perfume is $85 per half ounce.