At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Valentino Garavani - fashion icon

Designer favoured by the world's best dressed women


Valentino Garavani became interested in fashion while still at primary school
Valentino Garavani became interested in fashion
while still at primary school
The fashion designer best known simply as Valentino was born in Voghera, a town about 70km (43 miles) south of Milan in the province of Pavia, on this day in 1932.

The favourite designer of the world’s best dressed women from the 1960s onwards, he built up a business that he eventually sold for $300 million.

Born Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani, he became interested in fashion while still in primary school. After working initially for his aunt Rosa, with the financial support of his parents he moved to Paris to pursue his interest, studying at the École des Beaux-Arts and at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.

His first taste of working life came in the salons of Jean Dessès and Guy Laroche.  Armed with the knowledge and experience he gained at the feet of two French masters, he left Paris in 1959 to set up his first fashion house in Rome, on the fashionable Via Condotti. He quickly gained kudos for his bright red dresses, in a shade that became widely known as "Valentino red."

In July 1960, Valentino met Giancarlo Giammetti at the Café de Paris on the Via Veneto in Rome. Giammetti, a little younger than Valentino and an architecture student, gave Valentino a lift home in his Fiat, starting a friendship that turned into a business partnership and a romance. The two met again on Capri 10 days later, after which Giammetti quit his studies to become Valentino's business partner. He was faced with the immediate task of saving his new friend from bankruptcy after a disastrous first year.

Giancarlo Giammetti
Giancarlo Giammetti
Together, the pair put the business on its feet, developed Valentino SpA into an international brand. Valentino made his international debut in 1962, at the Pitti Palace in Florence, which brought his designs to the attention of socialites and aristocratic women around the world.

Within a short time, Valentino's designs were considered to be at the very top of Italian couture. His client list included Queen Paola of Belgium, the movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn, and the Americian First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.

After the assassination of her husband, the US president John F Kennedy, it was Valentino to whom Jackie Kennedy turned to design the dresses in black and white that she wore for a year after her husband’s death.  When she remarried to Aristotle Onassis in 1968, Valentino designed her white wedding dress.

Valentino opened his first ready-to-wear shops in Milan and Rome and kept his ties with Florence but spent much of the 1970s in New York, where in addition to his friendship with Jackie Kennedy his friends included the artist Andy Warhol and Vogue’s editor-in-chief Diana Freeland.

Valentino and Giammetti in  the the 1960s
Valentino and Giammetti in
the the 1960s
In the 1980s, he launched the first Valentino line in children’s clothes as well as a collection of clothing for young adults which he named Oliver, after one of many pet pugs.

In 1989, he opened the Accademia Valentino, designed by architect Tommaso Ziffer, near his first workshop in Rome, for the presentation of art exhibitions. The next year, encouraged by their friend Elizabeth Taylor, he and Giammetti created LIFE, an organisation to support of AIDS-related patients, in association with the Accademia.

Valentino became known in the fashion industry as The Last Emperor, and he and Giammetti have become renowned for their extravagant lifestyle. 

Although in times they ceased to be a couple in a romantic sense in the early 1970s, they have remained inseparable as friends, maintaining at least 10 homes around the world, including an historic villa on Via Appia Antica in Rome, a chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, an apartment on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, overlooking central park, a 19th century mansion in Holland Park, London, and a Louis XIII château near Paris. They also have a 152-foot yacht. All their properties have extensive art collections.

Valentino's 152-foot yacht
Valentino's 152-foot yacht
Aside from fashion, Valentino has an obsession with dogs, specifically pugs. After he lost Oliver, he acquired six others, named Milton, Maggie, Maude, Monty, Margot, and Molly. When they travel with him in his 14-seat jet, each dog has their own seat. On arrival at the airport, wherever in the world it is, Valentino always arranges three cars to meet him – one for himself and Giammetti, another for their luggage and staff and and a third for the five of the six pugs. The sixth, Maude, always travels with Valentino.

In 2007, Valentino announced that he would hold his final haute couture show the following year. This show, at the Musée Rodin in Paris, featured many of Valentino’s most famous models, including Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Eva Herzigova.

Since then, Valentino has worked only on commissions for favoured individual clients, such as actress Anne Hathaway's wedding dress in 2012 and the bridal gown worn by Princess Madeleine of Sweden the following year.

Travel tip:

Voghera is a town in Lombardy with slightly fewer than 40,000 residents. It has a 14th century castle, an 11th century Cathedral and a Museum of History that has on display a car belonging to General Carlo Alberto Dalla Chiesa, who was killed by the Mafia in 1982, and the weapon that allegedly killed Benito Mussolini. ‘The housewife from Voghera’ (casalinga di Voghera) is a phrase used in the media and political discourse as a reference to the average, stereotypical, somewhat lower-middle class Italian voter or consumer.

The Via dei Condotti stretches out from the foot of the  Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome
The Via dei Condotti stretches out from the foot of the
 Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome 
Travel tip:

The Via Condotti – actually Via dei Condotti – is a Rome street that takes its name from the conduits that carried water to the Roman Baths of Agrippa. Beginning at the foot of the Spanish Steps, it links the Tiber with the Pincio hill. Today, it is the street which contains the greatest number of Rome-based Italian fashion retailers, equivalent to Milan's Via Montenapoleone, Paris's Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré, Florence's Via de' Tornabuoni or London's Bond Street.






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