She has one of the most storied names in fashion, and when it came time for her own style challenge, Gina de Givenchy came up with an entirely new twist.
Givenchy is the founder of Geeg, a stylish site which sells headwear and scarves for women who have lost their hair during chemotherapy.
It all started in 2013, when Givenchy, a former fashion executive who is married to James Taffin de Givenchy, a jewelry designer and the nephew of the legendary French designer Hubert de Givenchy, was diagnosed with breast cancer and lost her hair during chemotherapy.
“I’d always been a part of the fashion world, and then suddenly I felt outside of that circle,” says Givenchy, 51. “I didn’t really want to look at myself in the mirror. I didn’t feel pretty or confident.”
She tried wigs but found them uncomfortable, especially in the summer.
“What do you do when you don’t want to walk around bald?” asks Givenchy, who looked online for scarfs and hats. “I’d comb the internet but I couldn’t find anything that was relatable or attractive or made me feel good. There was zero retail therapy. And it was just more depressing. When you need it the very most, there was nothing out there that I could find.”
“One day you’re you, and the next day you look in the mirror and you’re looking at a blank canvas,” she explains. “I needed and wanted something to remind me of who I was, especially after you lose your feminine figure. I had a double mastectomy. And I had long hair for years. Then suddenly, it’s just gone.”
So Givenchy, a former marketing executive for designers such as Richard Tyler, Jill Sander and Chanel, outlined a business plan. She cut scarfs from bolts of fabric to wrap around her head and experimented with different fabrics.
Says Givenchy, “I wanted to bring retail therapy to women when they need it the most.”
The idea was: “Something a little more designer, but not outrageous.”
Soon, other patients at her chemo treatments began asking about her scarves.
“I knew there was a need for a head covering that was stylish, comfortable and easy,” she says. “And I wanted to get it right because you don’t want to disappoint women who are already disappointed.”
Givenchy launched the site in 2017, curating scarves in breathable fabrics, along with a “Things We Love” section, including luxury Taffin candles (from her husband’s company) delicate bracelets in 18k rose gold and sterling silver and other gift items.
Ten percent of the proceeds from every sale goes to Family Reach, a non-profit dedicated to helping families alleviate the financial burden caused by cancer. “It’s a fashionable site with a purpose,” says Givenchy.
The scarves work for everyone, and not just for those who have lost their hair. “I still wear scarves and I never did before [the diagnosis],” notes Givenchy.
After all, she adds, even the legendary Hubert de Givenchy said that turbans and wraps “are very chic.”
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The designer, who died in March 2018, sent her some sketch ideas when she launched the site. “He’d aways say the most chic thing on a woman is to have her hair off the face,” she says. “He would probably have more jewels on his but his scarves would have sold for a lot more than mine!”
Givenchy says she was also motivated to do good by her 17-year-old daughter, Stella. “I wanted our daughter to really know who I am and to be proud of me,” she says. “And it made me realize the importance of being a part of something bigger than our little life in New York and the importance of helping people.”
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