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Giancarlo Giammetti was a student of architecture in Rome when he met the young Valentino Garavani in Via Veneto in Rome on July 31, 1960. Valentino had just arrived from Paris, where he had been an apprentice to designers Jean Desses and Guy Laroche, to open his first fashion house. As detailed in the movie Valentino: The Last Emperor, Giammetti dropped out of architecture school and began looking after the business side of Valentino’s young high-fashion enterprise. In the movie, Giammetti points out that he knew nothing about business, but that he knew more than Valentino, “say that three plus three equals six.” When Giammetti arrived, the House of Valentino was in bad financial shape. Among his great champions were Vogue’s Diana Vreeland and her Rome editor, Countess Consuelo Crespi. They trumpeted Valentino’s talent in their pages, and the grand women began to flock to the designer. It was Giammetti who helped Valentino capitalize on this early wave of success. He arranged for Valentino to show his collections in Florence, where the important shows took place. He was the first to conceive of lavish magazine advertising spreads, which proclaimed the designer’s art. He called these ads “grouppage”, and the first Valentino “grouppage” ad featured models dressed in pastels posing in a desert setting. Semolina was used to create the desertscape in the studio. Previously, much of the advertising for clothes in fashion magazines was sponsored by fabric houses, which put their logos on the ads, crediting the designers in small print at the bottom of the pages.
In the late 70s, after Valentino had become an international name, Giammetti was one of the first to lead a fashion brand into ready-to-wear. He was also an early pioneer in international licensing. In the 1980s Valentino’s brand was aggressively licensed to products from sunglasses to cars.
In 1989, he created with Valentino the Accademia Valentino, a cultural space located near Valentino's atelier in Rome, for the presentation of art exhibitions. A year later, encouraged by their friend Elizabeth Taylor, Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti created L.I.F.E., an association for the support of AIDS patients, which benefits from the activities of the Accademia Valentino.
The Valentino fashion empire was later sold in 1998, for a considerable amount of money to HDP, an Italian conglomerate, and, later, to the Marzotto group. In 2007, Marzotto sold the company to Permira, a London-based private equity fund.
Valentino and Giammetti decided to step down from their respective positions at the top of the fashion house in 2008, but not before celebrating Valentino’s career with the largest and most lavish event in the history of fashion: a three-day-long series of parties and an haute couture show in Rome. The celebration was considered the final reunion of the jet set, which defined high-level international living at the end of the 20th Century. Highlights of the event included a party in the Temple of Venus, with an aerial performance at the Coliseum—lit "Valentino Red"—as the backdrop; a party in the Villa Borghese in a structure designed for the evening by Dante Ferretti; and a runway show in the Ospedalle Santo Spirito.
A few months after this party, which was covered around the world on TV, newspapers and magazines, Giammetti announced his retirement to coincide with Valentino’s.
The relationship between Valentino and Giammetti and the events leading up the party in Rome, and the party itself, are covered in the 2008 film Valentino: The Last Emperor.