Valentino, the last emperor of Italian Fashion

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Valentino with Liz Hurley

Valentino with Liz Hurley - image via Wikipedia

Italian fashion style is well known all over the world, also thanks to stylists like Valentino Garavani, who can be said to be one of its most genial and glamorous artists of all times. His models are an example of high style and elegance. Valentino is without doubt The Icon of the Italian fashion style – which woman doesn’t dream to be clad in one of his signature red gowns? Valentino just knows what women want – “they want to be beautiful” he says.

You can visit his virtual museum, in which thousands of documents and images gathered in his 50 years of activity have been stored “in a spectacular 3D Palazzo”, with rooms full of photos, press releases, videos and sketches. Such elements can be actively explored like a real exposition. The desktop application can be downloaded from

Valentino was born in 1932, and was interested in fashion since he was a child. He soon developed a peculiar attention to all things beautiful and elegant. As he said in the movie Valentino – The Last Emperor, “I love beauty. It’s not my fault”.

Valentino – The Last Emperor

Valentino – The Last Emperor - image via Wikipedia

He moved to Paris to study at the École de Beaux Arts, and at the Chamber Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. His first employer was Jacques Faith, who also “discovered” talents of the caliber of Hubert de Givenchy and Guy Laroche. He then worked for the famous maison Balenciaga and with his friend Laroche. He finally set up his own maison in Rome, in the already posh Via Condotti, in 1959. It was where his famous shade of red was created – famous to the point that his signature “rosso Valentino” (Valentino Red) is a precise color, just like “Ferrari Red” or “Kawasaki Green”!

Valentino made his international debut in 1962 in Florence, in the prestigious Palazzo Pitti. It was a huge success – he officially became the new enfant prodige of the fashion world, the one who got to dress the stars of the time. In 1967 he received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award, which is considered the Oscar of the fashion world. Valentino was already considered the fashion master of Italian luxury design, and he wasn’t even 40. At the time, he was already dressing VIPs like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Queen Paola of Belgium, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Princess Margaret. In 1966, he created a magnificent all-white collection, the Collezione Bianca, in which he launched his now unmistakable “V” logo.


White Valentino dresses in celebration of Valentino's 45 years in fashion - via Wikipedia

In 1990, Valentino opened his own Accademia Valentino, a space created for his exhibitions and his shows. His good friend Elizabeth Taylor also encouraged Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti to found L.I.F.E. , an association that supports people affected by AIDS and also supports medical research on AIDS, and whose primary aim is to fight it through information and educational campaigns.

Romans still remember the party Valentino gave in 2007, to celebrate his 45 years of career. A series of glamorous events took place in the space of just three days. The main events were the inauguration of the exhibition held at the Ara Pacis, in which 300 of his most important and precious dresses were to be admired; a gala dinner at the Temple of Venus right in the Imperial Forum – the location had been prepared by Oscar winner designer Dante Ferretti, who created a breathtaking scenography, and by Valerio Festi, who created a delicate performance with wire-high ballerinas dressed in special versions of Valentino’s iconic dresses. For the occasion, the Coliseum was bathed in red and mauve lights. Last but not least, a show featuring 61 of his gowns was held, and Valentino, usually calm and collected, was actually moved to tears while taking his bow.

Valentino black

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

Valentino, the Last Emperor of Italian fashion, retired in 2008. His last show was a prêt-à-porter woman collection, presented on October 4th in Paris, while his last haute couture show was presented at the Musée Rodin on January 23, 2008. Valentino received a moved standing ovation from his colleagues and friends, and the homage of the most famous models like Eva Herzigova, Claudia Schiffer, Naomi Campbell and many more, that walked the catwalk for him one last time.

Today Valentino is still synonymous with the finest, most glamorous, perfectly elegant, flawless and clean cut dresses that bring fashion to its highest peaks. A Valentino garment is never out of fashion, it’s classic, yet it’s modern, and while wearing Valentino one can never be overdressed.

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