Valentino Garavani, best known as Valentino, is one of the most famous and influential haute couture designers of all time. Universally recognized as a symbol of Italian design, style and elegance, in nearly 50 years in fashion Valentino has dressed many of the world's most famous international celebrities.
Valentino's passion for fashion started when he was a teenager. At just 16, he moved from his native town of Voghera to Paris to pursue his interests. He studied at the prestigious École des Beaux- Arts and at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. But the real beginning of his creative career was when he worked as an apprentice at the fashion studios of Jaques Fath, Balenciaga, Jean Desses and Guy Laroche.
After this excellent training, he settled in Rome where he tried to open his first design studio, with financial backing from his family. The effort rapidly failed. In 1960 he had a second try, collaborating with Giancarlo Giammetti, who dropped out of his architecture studies to help with the stylist's project, thus beginning a long-term business partnership and friendship.
Valentino's international debut came at the Pitti Palace Fashion Show in Florence in 1962 and marked the turning point in his career. With its subtle shades of white, sand, cream and beige, this legendary ‘no color’ collection astounded the public and was acclaimed in the international press, attracting a flurry of foreign buyers.
Five years later, at the launch of his White Collection, the ‘V’ logo appeared for the first time. From that moment, it became the Valentino emblem, famous the world over.
Valentino's dresses were already becoming something of a legend. In1968, Jacqueline Kennedy got married to Aristotele Onassis wearing a lace Valentino mini-dress. It was featured by international fashion magazines in Europe and the USA and made even more famous faces want to be dressed by Valentino, including top international celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Farah Diba, Sophia Loren and Princess Grace of Monaco.
During the 70’s, Valentino launched his first prêt-a-porter collection – the most famous of which is the ‘Oliver’ line, aimed at younger buyers. He opened boutiques in Italy and overseas, including New York, Paris, Geneva, Lausanne and Tokyo)and added perfumes, accessories, jeans, bags and handbags as well as moving into interior design.
One of Valentinoi's trademarks is the famous ‘Rosso Valentino’ or ‘Valentino Red’. Inspired by the chromatic shades of red seen during a holiday in Spain, Valentino created a shade somewhere between carmine, purple-red and cadmium red that was quite unique and meant his name was ever more firmly fixed in the universal psyche.
For more than 40 years Valentino has been one of the greatest creative minds in Italian fashion not only dressing elegant celebrities of the past but also today's stars such as Julia Roberts, Claudia Schiffer, Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gwen Stefani, Lindsay Lohan, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Aniston and Halle Berry.
Besides fashion, the Italian stylist is involved in cultural and social initiatives. In Rome, Valentino opened “Accademia Valentino”, a cultural centre hosting art exhibitions, and together with his partner Giancarlo Giammetti he also founded L.I.F.E., an association committed to helping inform people about AIDS which has patient-related support and research at its core.
Valentino’s fashion shows have always been famed for their extravagance. A high point was the three-day celebration of Valentino's 45 years in fashion in July 2007. The spectacular event was held in several locations in Rome, including the Villa Medic and the Ara Pacis, the temple of Venus in the Imperial Forum. In this evocative location, with a set designed by Dante Ferretti (set designer for Martin Scorsese’s ‘Gangs of New York’ and ‘The Aviator’), Valentino presented key creations from the past as well as a collection of black dresses.
The Valentino empire has continued to grow over time, reaching an yearly turnover of about 1000 million euros. The fashion house has over 12 shops in 70 countries selling everything from haute couture and pret-a-porter to accessories and perfume. In 2005 the Valentino Fashion Group was created which brought together labels from the Marzotto group, including Hugo Boss, Marlboro Classics and its feminine counterpart M Missoni.
September 4, 2007 marked Valentino’s farewell to the world of fashion when he stepped down after 45 years of activity, leaving Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli to head the creative team.
Valentino's worldwide impact was confirmed with the release of the documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor, produced and directed by Vanity Fair correspondent Matt Tyrnauer, and which also featured Giorgio Armani. This was not Valentino’s first film appearance: in 2006 he appeared in a cameo role in The Devil Wears Prada. He played himself of course, because who else coulod play the role of one of the greatest designers the fashion world has ever seen?