Valentino (fashion designer)

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Valentino Liz Hurley Cannes.jpg
Valentino Garavani with Liz Hurley at the Cannes Film Festival
Born Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani
(1932-05-11) 11 May 1932 (age 83)
Voghera, Lombardy, Italy
Education École des Beaux-Arts
Occupation Fashion designer
Partner(s) Marilù Tolo
Giancarlo Giammetti
Parent(s) Teresa de Biaggi
Mauro Garavani
Awards Grande ufficiale dell' Ordine al merito della Repubblica Italiana, Cavaliere del Lavoro, The Neiman Marcus Award, Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur
Labels Valentino

Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani (born 11 May 1932 in Voghera, Italy), best known as Valentino, is an Italian fashion designer and founder of the Valentino SpA brand and company. His main lines include Valentino, Valentino Garavani, Valentino Roma and R.E.D. Valentino.


Paris years (1952–1959)[edit]

Valentino became interested in fashion while in primary school in his native Voghera, Lombardy, northern Italy, when he apprenticed under his aunt Rosa and local designer Ernestina Salvadeo, an aunt of noted artist Aldo Giorgini. Valentino then moved to Paris to pursue this interest with the help of his mother Teresa de Biaggi and his father Mauro Garavani. There he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. His first choice for an apprenticeship, in Paris, was Jacques Fath, then Balenciaga. He found an apprenticeship with Jean Desses where he helped style icon Countess Jacqueline de Ribes sketch her dress ideas. He then joined Guy Laroche for two years. At Jean Desses, Valentino sketched furiously, between helping with window dressing and greeting clients for the daily 2:30 pm private showings. Most of his early sketches were lost. However, at a Rome exhibition in 1991 a smattering of them went on display and then-current clients such as Marie-Hélène de Rothschild and Elizabeth Taylor marveled that the DNA of Valentino's style was already apparent in the layers of white pleats and animal prints.

A wedding dress by Valentino

After five years, Valentino left Jean Desses over an incident about prolonging a vacation in Saint-Tropez that still makes him uncomfortable today. Rescued by his friend Guy Laroche, he joined his "tiny, tiny" fashion house. After discussions with his parents, he decided to return to Italy and set up in Rome in 1959.


Palazzo Gabrielli-Mignanelli, Valentino's Roman residence

In 1960 Valentino left Paris and opened a fashion house in Rome on the posh Via Condotti with the backing of his father and an associate of his. More than an atelier, the premises resembled a real "maison de couture," it being very much along the lines of what Valentino had seen in Paris: everything was very grand and models flew in from Paris for his first show. Valentino became known for his red dresses, in the bright shade that became known in the fashion industry as "Valentino red."

On 31 July 1960, Valentino met Giancarlo Giammetti at the Café de Paris on the Via Veneto in Rome. One of three children, Giammetti was in his second year of architecture school, living at home with his parents in the haut bourgeois Parioli section of Northern Rome. That day Giammetti gave Valentino a lift home in his Fiat and a friendship, as well as a long-lasting partnership, started. The day after, Giammetti was to leave for Capri for vacation and, by coincidence, Valentino was also going there, so they met again on the island 10 days later. Giammetti would shortly thereafter abandon the University to become Valentino's business partner. When Giammetti arrived, the business situation of Valentino's atelier was in fact not brilliant: in one year he had spent so much money that his father's associate pulled out of the business, and had to fight against bankruptcy.[1]

Breakthrough in Florence (1962–1967)[edit]

Valentino's international debut took place in 1962 in Florence, the Italian fashion capital of the time. His first show at the Pitti Palace was welcomed as a true revelation and the young couturier was deluged by orders from foreign buyers and enthusiastic comments on the press.

After the breakthrough show in Florence, Valentino began dressing the ladies of the international best-dressed crowd, such as his acquaintance from the Paris years Countess Jacqueline de Ribes and New York socialites Babe Paley and Jayne Wrightsman.

By the mid-1960s he was already considered the undisputed maestro of Italian Couture, receiving in 1967 the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, the equivalent of an Oscar in the field of fashion. The Begum Aga Khan, Farah Diba, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwill, Queen Paola of Belgium, Babe Paley, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, Jayne Wrightsman, Marisa Berenson, Veruschka and Princess Margaret were already customers as well as personal friends.

At some point in 1964, Jacqueline Kennedy had seen Gloria Schiff, the twin sister of the Rome-based fashion editor of American Vogue and Valentino's friend Consuelo Crespi, wearing a two-piece ensemble in black organza at a gathering. It made such an impression that Kennedy contacted Ms. Schiff to learn the name of the ensemble's designer, which was Valentino. In September 1964, Valentino was to be in the United States to present a collection of his work at a charity ball at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Mrs. Kennedy wanted to view the collection but could not attend the event, so Valentino decided to send a model, sales representative and a selection of key pieces from his collection to Mrs. Kennedy's apartment on Fifth Avenue. Mrs. Kennedy ordered six of his haute couture dresses, all in black and white, and wore them during her year of mourning following President John F. Kennedy's assassination. From then on, she was a devoted client and would become a friend. Valentino would later design the white dress worn by Kennedy at her wedding to Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis.

In 1966, confident of his client base, he moved his shows from Florence to Rome where two years later he achieved one of his greatest triumphs, an all-white collection that became famous for the "V" logo he designed.


A dress worn by Audrey Hepburn at The Proust Bal at Château de Ferrières in 1971.

Throughout the 1970s Valentino spent considerable time in New York City, where his presence was embraced by society personalities such as Vogue's editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland and the art icon Andy Warhol.

Valentino Edition Lincoln Continental[edit]

From 1983 through 1985, the Ford Motor Company offered a Valentino Edition of its Continental sedan. It featured various color changes during this time and offered features that were optional on the standard model.

The Accademia Valentino[edit]

The year 1990 marked the opening of the Accademia Valentino, designed by architect Tommaso Ziffer, a cultural space located near Valentino's atelier in Rome, for the presentation of art exhibitions. The next year, encouraged by their friend Elizabeth Taylor, Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti created L.I.F.E., an association for the support of AIDS-related patients, which benefits from the activities of the Accademia Valentino.[2]

From HdP group to Marzotto group[edit]

In 1998 Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti sold the company for approximately US$300 million to HdP, an Italian conglomerate controlled, in part, by the late Gianni Agnelli, the head of Fiat. In 2002, Valentino S.p.A., with revenues of more than $180 million, was sold by HdP to Marzotto Apparel, a Milan-based textile giant, for $210 million.


Valentino's castle in Crespières, near Paris

On 4 September 2007, Valentino announced that he would retire fully in January 2008[3] from the world stage after his last haute couture show in Paris. He delivered his last women's ready-to-wear show in Paris on 4 October.

His last haute couture show was presented in Paris at the Musée Rodin on 23 January 2008. It was, however, somewhat marred by his criticism of fellow Italian design duo Dolce & Gabbana,[4] and the death of Australian actor Heath Ledger although few allowed these things to detract from his final show, which received a standing ovation from the entire audience that included hundreds of notable names from all areas of show business. Many models returned to show for Valentino's last haute couture show, including Eva Herzigova, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Nadja Auermann, Karolina Kurkova and Karen Mulder.[5]

In 2012–2013 a major new exhibition opened at Somerset House in London celebrating the life and work of Valentino, showcasing over 130 exquisite haute couture designs.[6]

The Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum

The Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum is a downloadable desktop application that digitally displays the 50 year archive of Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani. This application uses real time 3D technology is to create an immersive environment within the app. It connects to online media database that displays over 5,000 images including sketches, illustrations, advertising campaigns, editorials, red carpet moments and 180 fashion show videos. Content is arranged in a museum layout where users explore the different galleries and wings covering what would be over 10,000 square meters in an actual museum.

The museum became available for download on 5 December 2011 at The Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum was created by Valentino's long-time partner Giancarlo Giammetti. It was designed and produced by Novacom Associés-Paris, in collaboration with Kinmonth-Monfreda Design Project – London.[7]


Valentino's yacht moored in Porto Santo Stefano, Monte Argentario (Italy)

In 2006 Valentino appeared in a cameo role, as himself, in the hit movie The Devil Wears Prada. One of the DVD's featurettes is called "Getting Valentino" and shows an interview of the designer backstage with the movie's actresses, Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, his partner Giancarlo Giammetti, and his PRs Carlos de Souza and Charlene Shorto de Ganay.[8]

Valentino: The Last Emperor a feature-length documentary film on the designer, premiered at the 2008 Venice International Film Festival. Produced and directed by Matt Tyrnauer, special correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, the film follows Valentino and his inner circle throughout various events, including last year's anniversary show celebrating his 45-year career. During the movie's production from June 2005 to July 2007, the filmmakers shot more than 250 hours of footage with exclusive, unprecedented access to Valentino and his entourage. "We were let in to the inner circle, but we had to stick it out for a long time, practically move in, to capture the truly great moments", says Tyrnauer. "Valentino is surrounded by a tight-knit family of friends and employees, but, eventually, their guard came down and they forgot there was a camera crew in the room."

The film had its North American premiere at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. It was released theatrically in the United States on 18 March in New York City and selected cities. Indiewire called it the highest-grossing documentary debut of 2009.


On 6 July 2006, France's President Chirac awarded Valentino the Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur. "I am very honored," said Valentino, who has received awards from many countries including Italy and the United States.[9]

During the festivities for the 45th year of Valentino's career, the Mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, announced that the site of the Valentino Museum would be a building in via San Teodoro in Rome, between the Palatine Hill and the Bocca della Verità (mouth of truth).

24 January 2008, Valentino was presented with the Medal of the City of Paris for his services to fashion in the city where he was educated.

On 7 September 2011, Valentino was presented with the sixth annual Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion from the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology at a benefit luncheon held at the David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center in New York City.[10]

A collection of black dresses by Valentino at the Museo Ara Pacis in Rome

Home decoration[edit]

Valentino and his associate Giancarlo Giammetti have been known for the amazing decoration of their homes around the world which have all been extensively featured in fashion and decor magazines such as Vogue living, Architectural Digest etc. Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti share the following homes and apartments around the world:

  • A villa on the Via Appia Antica, an historical landmark in Rome. Bought in 1972, the villa is decorated by Renzo Mongiardino and Adrian Magistretti with influences of China, Italy, and France.
  • A 19th century mansion in Holland Park, London. The centerpiece of this mansion is the grand salon that houses five late Picasso’s and a small salon with two Basquiats and one painting by Damien Hirst
  • A penthouse on the Fifth Avenue, New York near the Frick Museum overlooking Central Park decorated by Jacques Grange with paintings by Richard Prince, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Willem de Kooning and Fernand Léger.
  • Château of Wideville, a castle in the communes of Crespières - Davron near Paris, France. A 17th-century residence outside Paris, Château of Wideville was built by Louis XIII’s finance minister and later home to one of Louis XIV’s mistresses.* Valentino acquired the eight-bedroom castle in 1995 and commissioned its restoration to the eminent interior decorator Henri Samuel. The castle comprises 280-acre gardens designed by Wirtz International, a pigeonnier tower celebrating Valentino’s passion for all things Chinese - from Qing-dynasty ancestor portraits to European chinoiserie -, a pavilion containing a shell grotto, a building housing the archives of Valentino Garavani Archives. The chateau stairway is flanked by stone dogs carved in the 17th century by the French artist Jacques Sarazin. Valentino stages always organizes a theme party at the castle during the fashion weeks in Paris.
  • Chalet Gifferhorn in Gstaad, Switzerland where he spends winter celebrations. The house has paintings of Arcimboldo and the famous sheep-shaped furniture by les Lalanne

Valentino also spends half of his time in Giancarlo Giammetti's homes:

  • 18th-century Villa "La Vagnola" in Cetona, Tuscany which Giancarlo Giammetti purchased in 1986. Renowned Italian decorator Renzo Mongiardino created enchanted interiors inspired by the villa's classical gardens. For twenty-five years Giancarlo Giammetti and Valentino vacationed here to escape the pressures of Rome and their international jet set lifestyle. Portions of the property date back to the 16th-century but is was in 1750, on the occasion of his marriage to Maria Antonietta Vagnoli, that the nobleman Sallustio Terrosi started building the villa. The villa's decoration includes Empire pieces and Chinese wooden figurines which once adorned the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and Empire settee that belonged to Princess Mathilde, Napoleon’s niece, 2,100 rare books that Giammetti miraculously returned to the villa, missing since the 1960s. The design of the spare all-white kitchen was given to one of Giammetti’s friends, Tommaso Ziffer, a young decorator at the time. The "Sophia Loren" guest room was so named in honor of the room’s inaugural guest, richly appointed in Old World style with a lacy ceiling designed by Mongiardino. Paolo Peyrone, a pupil of the English landscape designer Russell Page, assisted with the design of the landscaping around the house. The 18th-century stable, as it was photographed in the 1980s, became an orangery with an upstairs exercise room. The villa has a pool pavilion named "La Turkerie" standing in the middle of the garden was built by the Terrosi-Vagnoli family in 1837 in honor of a visiting pasha.
  • a penthouse on the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, decorated by Peter Marino with a collection of modern art including two Andy Warhol Lenin's, one red and one black, Rothko, Cy Twombly, Francis Bacon and George Dyer. The furniture includes pieces by Jean-Michel Frank, Lalanne, Eileen Gray, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, les Lalanne and Ariane Dandois.
  • an apartment in Kensington, London.
  • a penthouse in New York decorated by designer Jacques Grange and filled with works by Picasso, Cy Twombly, David Hockney, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Richard Prince, Rachel Feinstein and Mark Rothko painting. The apartment comprises a pair of Tang-dynasty horses, a gilt-bronze crocodile chair by les Lalanne,a sculpture by Anselm Kiefer.
  • a penthouse in Via Condotti near the Spanish steps in Rome

Personal life[edit]

In the film Valentino: The Last Emperor, Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti discuss how they met on 30 July 1960 in Via Veneto, the epicenter of Rome's Dolce Vita. Ever since they have been together for more than 50 years, even if their love relationship ended in 1972. As told by Giancarlo in his private memoirs, in 1973 Valentino met nineteen-year-old Carlos Souza at Hippopotamus club in Rio de Janeiro, dating him until Carlos would eventually marry Brazilian socialite Charlene Shorto in 1983. Valentino and Giancarlo would later become the godfathers of Charlene and Carlos' sons, Sean and Anthony. Carlos and Charlene would work as PR for the Maison Valentino even after their divorce in 1990, keeping a close relationship. As narrated in "Private" by Giancarlo Giammetti, Valentino in the early 80's met his current boyfriend Bruce Hoeksema, who started as a model at Valentino to later become the vice president of the Maison. Giancarlo Giammetti said that he and Valentino together with Carlos family and Bruce form a real family. Part of this enlarged family called the "tribe" is also composed by Spanish Duchess Naty Abascal, Princess Georgina Brandolini of the Agnelli family and Valentino PR Daniela Giardina.

Valentino's mother, Teresa, moved from Voghera to Rome to help with the business. Eventually he told both his parents that he was engaged to Italian actress Marilù Tolo, the only woman he had ever truly loved and with whom he had wished to have children.[11]

Valentino and Giammetti's lifestyle has been considered flamboyant. John Fairchild, editor-at-large at Women's Wear Daily and W, told Vanity Fair,

Valentino and Giancarlo are the kings of high living. Every other designer looks and says, ‘How do they live the way they do?’ I don’t think they made the money that Valentino and Giancarlo did, because Giancarlo knows how to make money. If they did, they didn’t spend the money like Valentino. No other designer ever did. When the terrorism first started in Rome – the period when the Red Brigades were kidnapping people – Valentino was riding around in a bulletproof Mercedes. And do you know what color the Mercedes was? Red. My God, I thought, you must want to get blown up.[12]

Valentino adores dogs to the point that he once named a second line of clothing after his late pug Oliver. Today Valentino owns six pugs: the mother, Molly; her sons, Milton and Monty; and her daughters, Margot, Maude and Maggie. When traveling on his 14-seat Challenger jet, three cars are needed to move Valentino and his entourage to the airport: one to move Valentino and Giammetti, another for the luggage and the staff, and a third to transport five of six Valentino's pugs as one of them, Maude, always travels with Valentino.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Valentino". Vogue. 8 March 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Chronice". New York Times. 28 May 1990. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Fashion legend Valentino retires". BBC News. 4 September 2007. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  4. ^ "Enjoy England – My Favourite Trips". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 27 May 2010. [dead link]
  5. ^ "Paris Couture – Day Three". Vogue. 23 January 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 
  6. ^ Somerset House
  7. ^ "Valentino Virtual Fashion Museum Opens Its Doors". New York Times. 5 December 2011. Retrieved 2 March 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Devil Wears Prada". IMDb. 30 June 2006. Retrieved 8 March 2012. 
  9. ^ Herald Tribune
  10. ^ "2011 Couture Council Artistry of Fashion Award: Valentino". Museum at FIT. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  11. ^ "Valentino, 45 anni da re della moda "Ho amato l'attrice Marilù Tolo" – Persone –". Repubblica. 29 June 2007. Retrieved 22 May 2011. 
  12. ^ a b Vanity Fair, August 2004.

External links[edit]