A Homage to Valentino: True Couture
Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani was born in Vohera, Italy, in 1932. From a young age, his “passion was to design”. He worked as an apprentice to his aunt and a local designer, then studied in Paris, where he continued as an apprentice, helping a countess sketch dresses, and window dressing and greeting clients for a designer. After 5 years, he joined a “tiny, tiny” fashion house, and then returned to Italy.
In Rome, he finally opened his own fashion house on Via Condotti, funded by his father and an associate, which almost went bankrupt. Despite this, the Valentino brand survived, and Valentino gained a long-standing partner, Giancarlo Giametti—the brains of the outfit. Known as the “kings of high fashion”, they grew to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. Early on, Valentino produced a signature all-white collection with his famous “V” logo, and a poppy red dresses collection, which set the standards for his career in the fashion industry.
Though the Parisian influence was strong—with the fashion house being “une maison de couture”, Valentino earned his international breakthrough in Florence thanks to an American—Jacqueline Kennedy. Impressed by his designs, she requested to meet him and wore a series of his haute couture black and white dresses during her mourning period.
This was perfect for Valentino as he “loved beauty”. His desire was to dress the world’s most famous and beautiful women—and that he did. His haute couture style was favoured by beautiful actresses and Arab princesses. His figure-hugging and embellished dresses adorned the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, and Marie-Hélène de Rothschild. His signature pieces included wedding dresses for Jacqueline and Elizabeth Taylor. While other designers fell by the wayside, Valentino’s beautiful gowns transcended the decades, and he continued to dress modern beauties such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, and Jennifer Anniston.
For Valentino, his unwavering focus was always on designing beautiful clothes. He didn’t intend to influence the fashion world, but his influence spread nonetheless. The signature bright red dresses he became famous for lead the fashion industry to name the shade lovingly as “Valentino red”. As his new designers put it “Couture is Valentino”.
From his trademark red dresses to his embroidered and column dresses, Valentino designed beautiful gowns for the rich and famous—dresses that made beautiful women look even more beautiful. His style is ultimately glamorous, luxurious, and sensational. His embroidery is exquisite, his fabrics expensive. His style is never grungy or edgy—always beautiful and feminine—setting him apart from his contemporaries.
Over the years, Valentino was honoured with a Valentino Museum built in Rome in his honour, was awarded the Medal of the City of Paris, was given the Chavalier de la Legion d’honneur by the French President, and received the sixth annual Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
He retired from the fashion world in 2008, with a final show in Paris after 45 strong years in the business—having created one of the world’s most well-known luxury clothing brands. The brand is worth over $180 billion dollars, and continues as Valentino enjoys his retirement, with “love” still going into every stitch.