Born: Valentino Garavani in Voghera, Italy, 11 May 1932. Education: Studied French and fashion design, Accademia dell'Arte, Milan, to 1948; studied at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, 1949-51. Career: Assistant designer, Jean Dessés, 1950-55, and Guy Laroche, 1956-58; assistant to Princess Irene Galitzine, 1959; business established, Rome, 1960; showed first ready-to-wear collection, 1962; ready-to-wear boutique established, Paris, 1968; company owned by Kenton Corporation, 1968-73, Rome shop opened and menswear collection introduced, 1972; repurchased by Valentino, 1973; Valentino Piú established, 1973; signature fragrance introduced, 1978; opened Milan shop, 1979; London store, 1987; founded Valentino Academy as well as LIFE, an AIDS assistance program and fund, 1990; launched Vendetta and Vendetta Pour Homme complementary fragrances, 1993; opened new boutiques in Rome and New York, 1996; V Zone sportswear launched for fall 1997; introduced new fragrance Very Valentino, 1997; sold firm to Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali (HdP), 1998; Very Valentino Homme debuted, 1999; Valentino Roma line launched, 2000; rehauled Milan store, 2001; considered buying firm back from HdP, 2001. Exhibitions: Italian Re-Evolution, La Jolla Art Museum, California, 1982; 30 Years of Magic traveling exhibit and retrospective, 1991; retrospective, Capitoline Museum, Rome, 1991, and New York, 1992. Awards: Neiman Marcus award, 1967; National Italian American Foundation award, 1989; CFDA Lifetime Achievement award, 2000. Address: Piazza Mignanelli 22, 00187 Rome, Italy. Website: www.valentino.it.
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Sartogo, Piero, editor, Italian Re-Evolution: Design in Italian Society in the Eighties [exhibition catalogue], La Jolla, California, 1982.
Alfonsi, Maria-Vittoria, Leaders in Fashion: i grandi personaggi della moda, Bologna, 1983.
Cosi, Marina, Valentino che veste di nuovo, Milan, 1984.
Soli, Pia, Il genio antipatico [exhibition catalogue], Venice, 1984.
Talley, André Leon, Valentino, Milan, 1984.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, Couture: The Great Designers, New York, 1985.
Aragno, Bonizza Giordani, Moda Italia: Creativity and Technology in the Italian Fashion System, Milan, 1988.
Howell, Georgina, Sultans of Style: 30 Years of Fashion and Passion 1960-1990, London 1990.
Pelle, Marie-Paule, and Patrick Mauries, Valentino: Thirty Years of Magic, Rome & New York, 1991.
Martin, Richard, and Harold Koda, Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress [exhibition catalogue], New York, 1994.
Morris, Bernadine, Valentino, New York, 1996.
Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.
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Pertile, Marina, "Valentino: 25 anni nella moda compiuti," in Vogue
(Milan), September 1984.
Buck, Joan Juliet, "An Affair Called Valentino," in Vogue, March 1985.
Etherington-Smith, Meredith, and Caroline Clifton-Magg, "Palace Evolution," in Harpers & Queen (London), June 1989.
Ducci, Carlo, and Lele Acquarone, "Valentino 1959-89," in Vogue (Milan), September 1989.
Rafferty, Diane, "Valentino," in Connoisseur (New York), August 1990.
"Viva Valentino…Marking 30 Years in Fashion," in the Chicago >Tribune, 19 June 1991.
Casadio, Mariuccia, "Valentino, Take a Bow!" in Interview (New
York), September 1991.
Koenig, Rhoda, "When Valentino Fêtes His Anniversary, There's No Place Like Rome," in Vogue (New York), September 1991.
Mulvagh, Jane, "The Sultan of Style," in the European (London), 1 November 1991.
Lesser, Guy, "Our Funny Valentino," in Town & Country (New York), September 1992.
Shields, Brooke, "Hello, Valentino?" in Interview, September 1992.
Schiff, Stephen, "Lunch with Mr. Armani, Tea with Mr. Versace, Dinner with Mr. Valentino," in the New Yorker, 7 November 1994.
Menkes, Suzy, "Craft is in the Details: Artistry is In, Supermodels are Out," in the International Herald Tribune, 24 January 1995.
"Valentino: For the Sophisticated Lady," in WWD, 21 March 1995.
Menkes, Suzy, "YSL Plays Safe While Valentino Shines at Night," in the International Herald Tribune, 22 March 1995.
Forden, Sara Gay, "Valentino—Destination 2000," in DNR, 1 January 1996.
Born, Pete, "Valentino Back in Scent Scene," in WWD, 1 August 1997.
Forden, Sara Gay, "Valentino's Big Move: He Agrees to Sell Firm to HdP, Parent of GFT," in WWD, 12 January 1998.
"Name Swapping (Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti Complete Sale of Valentino)…," in the Economist, 11 April 1998.
Conti, Samantha, "The New Valentino," in WWD, 19 October 1998.
——, "House of Valentino Makes Plans to Begin a New Life at Forty," in WWD, 28 June 1999.
Herman-Cohen, Valli, "Valentino's Ageless Designs Still Shine," in the Financial Times, 3 November 2000.
Medina, Marcy, "Painting Tinseltown Red," in WWD, 16 November 2000.
Jewel, Dan, "Valentino Valentine," in People, 4 December 2000.
de Courtay, Romy, "Fashion's Favorite Roman: Valentino…," in DNR, 15 January 2001.
Conti, Samantha, "Valentino Said to be Exploring a Buyback of House from HdP," in WWD, 18 April 2001.
Deeny, Godfrey, "Valentino: Great Glamorous Clothes," available online at Fashion Windows, www.fashionwindows.com, 8 July 2001.***
Both a reverent hush and an excited clamor simultaneously surround the Italian designer Valentino. He enjoys the patronage of a long established clientéle of wealthy and aristocratic women, yet his clothes are never staid and always express a fresh, current style. His collections and his lifestyle embody the grandeur and serenity of eternal Rome, where he works from his salon near the Spanish Steps, and at the same time represents the point of view of a jetsetting citizen of the world. In 2000 Valentino celebrated 40 years in business. The anniversary was celebrated in characteristic Valentino style in Los Angeles, atop the Pacific Design Center with a slew of celebrities in attendance to honor him. The gala raised more than $250,000 to go to the Children's Action Network.
In 1960, when Valentino opened his first salon in the Via Condotti, Rome was the center of fashion in Italy. The ready-to-wear designers of Milan, the industrial center, did not come to prominence until a decade later. After having served as an apprentice in Paris for five years with Jean Dessés and two years with Guy Laroche, Valentino's design foundation was firmly set in the haute couture tradition of quality, luxury, and a dose of extravagance. He immediately began to attract clients who came to him for his finely crafted, colorful, and elegant designs. By the mid-1960s he introduced his signature trousersuits for day and evening.
In 1968 he created a sensation with his White Collection, featuring short dresses shown with lace stockings and simple flat shoes. The very same year Jacqueline Kennedy chose a lace-trimmed silk two-piece dress with a short pleated skirt, for her marriage to Aristotle Onassis. Yet red has since become Valentino's signature color, a rich shade of crimson with vibrant overtones of orange. He has used it throughout his collections, especially in his lavish evening designs, characterized by magnificent embroideries and meticulous detailing. A section of his retrospective exhibition was devoted to evening jackets covered entirely in elaborately beaded decorations. Typical Valentino details include scalloped trims and hems, raglan sleeves, circular ruffles, complex plays of proportion, and extravagant pattern and texture mixes—like the combination of lace, velvet, and houndstooth in a single outfit.
In 1989 Valentino celebrated 30 years of high fashion with a two-night extravaganza in Rome, and invited hundreds of his high-profile friends, from politicos and royals such as Baroness Marie-Helene Rothschild, Mme. Claude Pompidou, Georgette Mosbacher, Pat Buckley, and Nancy Kissinger to Hollywood icons Elizabeth Taylor, Gina Lollobrigida, and Marissa Berenson. The $5-million affair was a fête to remember, with a sumptuous buffet, champagne, fireworks, flowing fountains, an American 16-piece orchestra, and a retrospective of his work at the Palazzo dei Conservatori museum, designed by Michelangelo in the 16th century. Yet for all the glamour and excess, the retrospective was set to travel to Florence, then on to London, Madrid, New York City, and Tokyo. Proceeds raised from the show were earmarked for LIFE, Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti's private fund for AIDS victims; Giammetti is Valentino's business partner who, from the late 1960s through present day, was fundamental in the worldwide expansion and success the fashion house.
Valentino's devotees flock to him for couture, ready-to-wear, and a vast array of products and accessories including menswear, leather goods, eyewear, furs, and fragrances. He reaches a younger market through his Oliver line of clothing, which is casual but still marked with distinctively refined Valentino sensibility. He produces a special collection of eveningwear called Valentino Night, in which the luxury of his couture designs is adapted for a wider audience. All of his designs, throughout all of his collections, express a singularly opulent view of the world. Valentino's sensibility embraces both timelessness and originality, filtered through a dedication to a luxurious way of life and the commitment to express that lifestyle in his collections. For many Valentino represents not just a style of dressing, but rather a style of living.
—Alan E. Rosenberg;
updated by Sydonie Benét
Valentino Garavani (1932– ) was born in Voghera, a city in Lombardy, on 11 May. Even as a young man he was fascinated by fashion and decided to study design in Milan. When he was seventeen he discovered the extraordinary shade of red that would remain a design element throughout his career at a premiere of the Barcelona Opera.
In 1950 Valentino went to Paris, where he studied design at the schools of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. He obtained his first position as a designer with Jean Dessès. In 1957 Valentino went to work in Guy Laroche's new atelier, where he remained for two years. His training in France provided him with both technical skill and a sense of taste. In 1959 he decided to return to Italy and opened his own fashion house on the via Condotti in Rome with financial assistance from his family. In November he made his debut with his first couture collection, displaying 120 luxurious outfits notable for their stoles and draped panels that emphasized the shoulders. The Sunday Times of London was quick to take note of the new designer, singling him out for the refined lines of his tailoring and the sophistication of his garments.
In 1960 Valentino met Giancarlo Giammetti, who became his business administrator. At this time he moved his fashion house to via Gregoriana, 54. Valentino quickly became the favorite designer of the movie stars who were often found at Cinecittà, known as the new Hollywood during the years of Italy's economic boom. One of the first stars who wore Valentino's clothes was Elizabeth Taylor, who was in Rome for the filming of Cleopatra. In 1960 Valentino signed an agreement with a British firm, Debenham and Freebody, to reproduce some of his couture designs. That same year he designed costumes for Monica Vitti in Michelangelo Antonioni's film La Notte. In 1963 Valentino's summer line was photographed on the set of Federico Fellini's film 8 1/2.
Valentino's collection for fall–winter 1961–1962 featured twelve white outfits inspired by Jacqueline Kennedy. But what secured Valentino's fame was the success of his first fashion show on the runway of the Sala Bianca in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence in July 1962. For the first time French Vogue dedicated its cover to an Italian designer.
Valentino's fall–winter collection for 1963–1964 was inspired by wild animals. American Vogue published a photograph of the contessa Consuelo Crespi wearing one of his zebra-patterned models, which anticipated his op art and pop art-inspired collection of spring–summer 1966. The 1966 collection has become famous for its prints and geometric designs, its stylized animals, and its large dots. That same year Valentino started a lingerie line and stunned his audience with a winter show that included pink and violet furs. Ethel Kennedy chose a Valentino dress for her meeting with Pope Paul VI in June 1966.
In 1967 Valentino received the Neiman Marcus Award in Dallas, which spurred him to further develop his creative ideas. The award was the direct impetus for his first men's collection, Valentino Uomo. The designer's accessories, especially his handbags with a gold "V," became essential items for the elegant women of the jet set. In 1968 Valentino introduced his famous Collezione Bianca, a spring–summer line of white and off-white garments that included suits, wraps, coats, and legwear in white lace. The show took place at a critical moment in international fashion and helped alleviate the crisis in haute couture—a crises due to changes in international society in 1968 when people started looking at less exclusive models. In March of that year Valentino opened a store in Paris, followed by one in Milan in 1969. In October 1968 he designed Jacqueline Kennedy's dress for her wedding to Aristotle Onassis. He was the most acclaimed designer of the moment and expanded his circle of clients to include Paola di Liegi, Princess Margaret of England, Farah Diba, the Begum Aga Khan, Marella Agnelli, Princess Grace of Monaco, Sophia Loren, and many other well-known women.
Valentino lengthened hemlines and introduced folk and gypsy motifs in the early 1970s. He started his first boutique line in 1969. It was originally produced by Mendes, although ready-to-wear production was turned over to Gruppo Finanziario Tessile (GFT) in 1979. Valentino also opened a prêt-à-porter shop in the center of Rome in 1972. Throughout the 1970s his designs alternated between slender suits and harem pants coupled with maxi coats. These designs often evoked a Liberty and art deco atmosphere, as in his 1973 collection inspired by the art of Gustav Klimt and the Ballets Russes. In 1974 he opened new stores in London, Paris, New York, and Tokyo (in the early 2000s there are twenty-five stores throughout the world). In 1976 he decided to show his boutique line in Paris, while keeping his couture line in Rome. Valentino launched his first perfume, named Valentino, in 1978. The following year he introduced a line of blue jeans at a famous discothèque, Studio 54 in New York City, which was publicized through an advertising campaign photographed by Bruce Weber.
The collections of the 1980s were characterized by sarong skirts gathered on the hip, draped garments, ruched fabrics, breathtaking necklines, and dramatic slits in a range of colors that emphasized the famous Valentino red, together with black and white. In 1982 the designer presented his fall–winter collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1986 he introduced Oliver, a more youthful line named after his faithful dog, which he used as a logo. Three years later, Valentino decided to show his couture line in Paris, a series of garments inspired by ancient and modern art.
Valentino's collections of the 1990s integrated the themes of revival and self-reference—flounces, embroidery, and dots—partly as a way of emphasizing his thirty years in fashion, which were celebrated in several short films, exhibitions, and books. In January 1998, after a difficult period, Valentino sold his brand to the Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali SpA (HdP) group run by Maurizio Romiti, although Valentino remained the creative director. In 2002 HdP sold the fashion house to Gruppo Marzotto.
Elements of Style
Valentino has paid his own personal tribute to contemporary fashion, inventing a recognizable look, modern yet sophisticated, which balances tradition and innovation through the image of an iconic femininity that is both classic and chic. Valentino's designs have as a common denominator the technical precision of fine tailoring, which he applies not so much for the sake of innovation but rather to provide a sense of stylistic continuity. Bows, ruching, and draping are distinctive features of many of his designs, together with the famous Valentino red. All these features are used strategically, serving to give the brand its mythic quality. Valentino's fabrics are printed with flowers, dots, and his own initial, which has doubled as a logo since the 1960s, highlighting the interplay between ornamental texture and effective communication.
A forceful interpreter of the lines and ambiance of the nineteenth century, with references ranging from the neoclassical with its fine drapery through the Second Empire with its crinolines, Valentino plays with the idea that his garments serve as a kind of aesthetic memory, a modern reference to a different time. Because of the designer's ability to work with tradition, he has found a unique, although elitist, stylistic solution that has satisfied sophisticated women throughout the world.
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Valentino ★★ 1977 (R)
Another one of director Russell's flamboyantly excessive screen biographies, this time of silent screen idol Rudolph Valentino (Nureyev). The details hardly matter but the movie is told in flashback from Valentino's funeral to his beginnings as a dance instructor and his eventual success as a screen lover. Nureyev is noticeably stiff in his screen debut but at least he possesses some charisma. 127m/C VHS . GB Rudolf Nureyev, Leslie Caron, Michelle Phillips, Carol Kane, Felicity Kendal, Seymour Cassel, Peter Vaughan, William Hootkins, Huntz Hall, David de Keyser, Alfred Marks, Anton Diffring; D: Ken Russell; W: Mardik Martin, Ken Russell, John Byrum; C: Peter Suschitzky; M: Ferde Grofe Jr.