When talk turns to entertaining, Zoë de Givenchy instantly thinks of the late, great couturier Hubert de Givenchy, her banker husband Olivier’s uncle. “I always loved sitting at Hubert’s table in Paris or at [his country house] the Jonchet being surrounded by such refinement, that French version of refinement,” the Australian-born entrepreneur explains. “It’s so understated that you find it hard to pinpoint exactly what it is.”
One of Hubert de Givenchy’s style secrets was to patronize traditional artisans and to encourage them to create tableware that would belong exclusively to him and his spouse, fellow fashion designer Philippe Venet, who died on February 22 at the age of 91 and was Olivier de Givenchy’s godfather. (Hubert de Givenchy died in 2018, also aged 91.) “In the old days, Hubert or his friend Bunny Mellon would go down to the South of France in the summer and commission sets of dishes that would keep the workshops going through the winter.” Those kinds of orders, though, demand patience on the part of the end user, a characteristic that’s become a challenge in a world where speed is of the essence. Not many homeowners want to wait months for a dinner service to be produced, but the same homeowners still crave the unusual, the unique, and the special—which explains why Zöe de Givenchy has gone back to some of the same artisans that her uncle-in-law supported and has begun working with them to create ceramics for her recently launched firm, Z.d.G. by Zoë de Givenchy; also explore the Instagram account @zdgofficial.
“These workshops really work at a different pace,” Givenchy explains, adding that many of the artisans work for ateliers that have been in business for as many as eight generations. “They form the plates and bowls on molds, then they are hand-glazed and hand-painted. A lot of the designs are traditional, some of them very beautiful; but not everybody lives in the kind of homes that can sustain that kind of decoration,” she continues. “I felt that I could work with them to freshen up some designs, produce them in different sizes or shapes or colors or motifs, creating collections that could live on the table in a modern townhouse or country house or our house in L.A.”
The result of Givenchy’s editing is a range of linens, flatware, and dinnerware, packed with fresh attitude and a lighthearted sense of style. (That being said, she points out, “I’m always very respectful, asking, ‘Do you mind trying out this idea? Do you like it?’”) “Faience is different from china,” she says of the classic French glazed ceramic. “It’s lighter in appearance, refined, and understated. There’s a lightness in the physical sense but also in appearance, which I enjoy. It doesn’t feel as stiff as porcelain does.”