The journey of Valentino Garavani
In 1974 London saw a Valentino store arrive into the city. To this day Valentino stores carrying luxurious designs can be found living amongst the streets of Mayfair and Chelsea. Today, the man who founded it all, Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani, turns 86.
Over the course of his life Valentino’s name has become synonymous with glamour and elegance. Creating couture dresses and red-carpet ready gowns, his designs allowed him to count the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn as part of his impressive clientele.
But Valentino’s road to fame was not a short one. Although he decided he wanted to design women’s dresses at nine-years old, his first step in pursuing fashion came at the age of 17. He left his birthplace of northern Italy to travel to Paris, France, where he would study at École des Beaux-Arts and the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture.
Still in Paris, he went on to work as an apprentice for Jean Dessès. His time at Jean Dessès is thought to be where Valentino’s style really started to come together in his many sketches that showcase visions of pleats and animal prints.
Five years later, Valentino left Jean Dessès and joined a small fashion house where he worked alongside his friend Guy Laroche. But it wasn’t long before Valentino decided to return back to his roots. Circa 1960 he returned to Italy; not only did he meet his meet his soon-to-be business and personal-partner Giancarlo Giammetti then, but he set up a fashion house in Rome.
Spending time in Paris before his business endeavour meant Parisienne glamour effortlessly flowed through Valentino’s creations. When he showed his first couture collection in Florence in 1962, he immediately grabbed the attention of fashion critics worldwide.
Here Valentino began to grow his long-list of famous clients. A notable moment in his career was when Elizabeth Taylor asked him for a dress that she could wear to the premier of Spartacus. But Valentino credits his real breakthrough to Jackie Kennedy for creating a “Valentino boom”. Jackie commissioned Valentino to design her mourning dresses for the year following John F. Kennedy’s assassination and when she re-married to Aristotle Onassis, she wore a white Valentino gown.
Along with being widely-recognised for dressing the social elite, a signature of Valentino was his “V” logo that was first shown in a 1966 collection. This particular range of clothes was all-white, but another signature of Valentino is his use of a specific shade of red. Valentino decided upon using the colour when he saw a woman at the opera dressed in a rich crimson. “She was unique, isolated, fiery – the perfect heroine,” he told Vogue.
In the 70s Valentino went on to open his own ready-to-wear shops in Milan and Rome. During this time he also expanded his social circle even more, when he travelled to New York he became friends with Andy Warhol.
Even as years past, Valentino’s career showed no sign of slowing down. In the 80s he released childrenswear and a young adult’s line. Then in 1989, he opened the Academie Valentino in Rome which would host art exhibitions.
Come 1998, Valentino was able to sell his company for around $300 million to the Italian business Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali (HdP). Valentino did however stay on as a designer, even when Valentino was sold again in 2002 to Italian textile manufacturer Marzotto.
By 2007 Valentino announced his retirement. Though this was a sign of Valentino’s career finally starting to slow down, his popularity has only continued to soar. His last haute couture show in 2008 attracted many famous faces including Naomi Campbell and he’s been entrusted with designing the wedding dresses of people such as Anne Hathaway and Camilla Parker Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall.
In 2012 Valentino was awarded for his remarkable contribution to fashion, receiving the Commandeur de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres medal – it is considered one of France’s biggest honours.
Even without Valentino standing at the helm of his brand, his legacy is forever celebrated as gowns made in his namesake continue to grace catwalks and carpets every year.