Known simply by his first name, Valentino Garavani is one of Italy’s finest exports. Universally admired for his exquisite couture creations and romantic red carpet gownsA gown, from medieval Latin gunna, is a usually loose outer garment from knee- to full-length worn by men and women in Europe from the early Middle Ages to the 17th century, and continuing today in certain professions; later, gown was applied to any full-length woman’s garment consisting of a bodice and attached skirt. A long, loosely fitted gown called a Banyan was worn by men in the 18th century as an informal coat., he is now in his eighties and retired from his eponymous label but remains a significant figure in the fashion world.
Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani was born on May 11, 1932 in Lombardy, northern Italy.
In 1949, at the age of 17, he moved to Paris to pursue his interest in fashion and study at the prestigious école des Beaux-Arts and at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
When he finished studying he became an apprentice at Jean Dessès where he sketched every moment he could – these early illustrations carved out his signature elaborate aesthetic.
After five years he enjoyed a brief spell at his friend Guy Laroche’s small fashion house before returning home to Italy to set up his eponymous labelA label (as distinct from signage) is a piece of paper, plastic film, cloth, metal, or other material affixed to a container or product, on which is written or printed information or symbols about the product or item. Information printed directly on a container or article can also be considered labeling. with help from his parents in Rome.
Valentino brought with him to Rome the grandeur that he had experienced firsthand in Paris, establishing a reputation among the elite of the Dolce Vita.
In 1960 he met Giancarlo Giammetti and formed a long-standing relationship that would last until the present day – shortly afterwards Giammetti became Valentino’s business partner.
In 1962 he showed a couture collection at the Pitti Palace in Florence for the first time to critical acclaim. This was seen as his breakthrough and he soon became the go-to for dressing the glitterati.
Having established himself as the top designer in Italian haute couture, in 1967 he was awarded the prestigious Neiman Marcus Award for his infamous ‘no-colour collection’ for which he bucked the trend for decadent colour palettes, opting instead for beige, white, and ivory hues. It was this collection that saw the ubiquitous ‘V’ become his trademark.
The same year, he designed the dressA dress (also known as a frock or a gown) is a garment consisting of a skirt with an attached bodice (or a matching bodice giving the effect of a one-piece garment). that Jackie Kennedy wore to marry Aristotle Onassis. Jackie O, as she became known, was a loyal customer and friend to Valentino.
1969 saw the designer open his first ready-to-wear shops in Milan and Rome, before jetting off to New York where he spent much of the Seventies socialising with and dressing famous personalities from the worlds of fashion and art.
During the Eighties he launched the first Valentino childrenswear line as well as a collection of clothing for young adults which he named Olivier after his pet pug.
In 1989 he opened the Academie Valentino in Rome, a cultural centre to house art exhibitions and cultural activities.
1998 saw the designer sell his company to Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali (HdP) for $300 million (￡193,445,000). In 2002, HdP sold Valentino to luxury group Marzotto. Throughout both transactions Valentino stayed on as designer, remaining a hugely influential figure.
Much to the delight of the fashion and film worlds, in 2006 hemade a cameo appearance in The Devil Wears Prada,
alongside Meryl Streep who played fictional American Vogue editor Miranda Priestly.
During the same year he was awarded the prestigious 6th Legion d’Honneur at a ceremony at the Culture Ministry in Paris’s Palais Royale.”I’m feeling wonderful! Just wonderful!” he said.
A month after announcing he was to retire from designing, he presented his final ready-to-wear show during the spring/summer 2008 fashion week in Paris. The show saw a host a famous models turn out to support the designer including Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Eva Herzigova.
The following year the feature-length documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor premiered at the Venice Film
Festival. It was produced by journalist Matt Tyrnauer who followed the designer around both personal and formal events to provide a private portrait of him.
Publisher of WWD, John Fairchild, who gave Valentino the nickname ‘The Sheik of Chic’, said of the designer’s luxurious lifestyle: “Valentino and Giancarlo are the kings of high living,” in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine in 2004.
At the end of 2011 The Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum was launched at www.valentino-garavani-archives.org serving as a authoritative resource for the life and works of Valentino.
In October 2012, he was awarded the Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal – one of France’s highest honours – in recognition of his work for the fashion industry.
The Valentino: Master of Couture exhibition,celebrating his couture creations, opened in Somerset House in dNovember 2012.
Despite having retired from designing for the Valentino label, the renowned designer still works on special commissions. He designed actress Anne Hathaway’s wedding dress in late 2012 and, more recently, the bridal gown worn by Princess Madeleine of Sweden for her royal nuptials in June 2013.