Born: Valentino Garavani in Voghera, Italy, 11 May 1932. Education: Studied French and fashion design, Accademia dell'Arte, Milan, to 1948; studied at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, 1949-51. Career: Assistant designer, Jean Dessés, 1950-55, and Guy Laroche, 1956-58; assistant to Princess Irene Galitzine, 1959; business established, Rome, 1960; showed first ready-to-wear collection, 1962; ready-to-wear boutique established, Paris, 1968; company owned by Kenton Corporation, 1968-73, Rome shop opened and menswear collection introduced, 1972; repurchased by Valentino, 1973; Valentino Piú established, 1973; signature fragrance introduced, 1978; opened Milan shop, 1979; London store, 1987; founded Valentino Academy as well as LIFE, an AIDS assistance program and fund, 1990; launched Vendetta and Vendetta Pour Homme complementary fragrances, 1993; opened new boutiques in Rome and New
Mulassano, Adriana, I mass-moda: fatti e personaggi dell'Italian Look, Florence, 1979.
Ricci, Franco Maria, ed., Valentino, Milan, 1982.
Sartogo, Piero, editor, Italian Re-Evolution: Design in Italian Society in the Eighties [exhibition catalogue], La Jolla, California, 1982.
Alfonsi, Maria-Vittoria, Leaders in Fashion: i grandi personaggi della moda, Bologna, 1983.
Cosi, Marina, Valentino che veste di nuovo, Milan, 1984.
Soli, Pia, Il genio antipatico [exhibition catalogue], Venice, 1984.
Talley, André Leon, Valentino, Milan, 1984.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, Couture: The Great Designers, New York, 1985.
Aragno, Bonizza Giordani, Moda Italia: Creativity and Technology in the Italian Fashion System, Milan, 1988.
Howell, Georgina, Sultans of Style: 30 Years of Fashion and Passion 1960-1990, London 1990.
Pelle, Marie-Paule, and Patrick Mauries, Valentino: Thirty Years of Magic, Rome & New York, 1991.
Martin, Richard, and Harold Koda, Orientalism: Visions of the East in Western Dress [exhibition catalogue], New York, 1994.
Morris, Bernadine, Valentino, New York, 1996.
Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.
Sozzani, Franca, Valentino, New York, 2001.
Pertile, Marina, "Valentino: 25 anni nella moda compiuti," in Vogue
(Milan), September 1984.
Buck, Joan Juliet, "An Affair Called Valentino," in Vogue, March 1985.
Etherington-Smith, Meredith, and Caroline Clifton-Magg, "Palace Evolution," in Harpers & Queen (London), June 1989.
Ducci, Carlo, and Lele Acquarone, "Valentino 1959-89," in Vogue (Milan), September 1989.
Rafferty, Diane, "Valentino," in Connoisseur (New York), August 1990.
"Viva Valentino…Marking 30 Years in Fashion," in the Chicago > Tribune, 19 June 1991.
Casadio, Mariuccia, "Valentino, Take a Bow!" in Interview (New
York), September 1991.
Koenig, Rhoda, "When Valentino Fêtes His Anniversary, There's No Place Like Rome," in Vogue (New York), September 1991.
Mulvagh, Jane, "The Sultan of Style," in the European (London), 1 November 1991.
Lesser, Guy, "Our Funny Valentino," in Town & Country (New York), September 1992.
Shields, Brooke, "Hello, Valentino?" in Interview, September 1992.
Schiff, Stephen, "Lunch with Mr. Armani, Tea with Mr. Versace, Dinner with Mr. Valentino," in the New Yorker, 7 November 1994.
Menkes, Suzy, "Craft is in the Details: Artistry is In, Supermodels are Out," in the International Herald Tribune, 24 January 1995.
"Valentino: For the Sophisticated Lady," in WWD, 21 March 1995.
Menkes, Suzy, "YSL Plays Safe While Valentino Shines at Night," in the International Herald Tribune, 22 March 1995.
Forden, Sara Gay, "Valentino—Destination 2000," in DNR, 1 January 1996.
Born, Pete, "Valentino Back in Scent Scene," in WWD, 1 August 1997.
Forden, Sara Gay, "Valentino's Big Move: He Agrees to Sell Firm to HdP, Parent of GFT," in WWD, 12 January 1998.
"Name Swapping (Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti Complete Sale of Valentino)…," in the Economist, 11 April 1998.
Conti, Samantha, "The New Valentino," in WWD, 19 October 1998.
——, "House of Valentino Makes Plans to Begin a New Life at Forty," in WWD, 28 June 1999.
Herman-Cohen, Valli, "Valentino's Ageless Designs Still Shine," in the Financial Times, 3 November 2000.
Medina, Marcy, "Painting Tinseltown Red," in WWD, 16 November 2000.
Jewel, Dan, "Valentino Valentine," in People, 4 December 2000.
de Courtay, Romy, "Fashion's Favorite Roman: Valentino…," in DNR, 15 January 2001.
Conti, Samantha, "Valentino Said to be Exploring a Buyback of House from HdP," in WWD, 18 April 2001.
Deeny, Godfrey, "Valentino: Great Glamorous Clothes," available online at Fashion Windows, www.fashionwindows.com , 8 July 2001.
Both a reverent hush and an excited clamor simultaneously surround the Italian designer Valentino. He enjoys the patronage of a long established clientéle of wealthy and aristocratic women, yet his clothes are never staid and always express a fresh, current style. His collections and his lifestyle embody the grandeur and serenity of eternal Rome, where he works from his salon near the Spanish Steps, and at the same time represents the point of view of a jetsetting citizen
In 1960, when Valentino opened his first salon in the Via Condotti, Rome was the center of fashion in Italy. The ready-to-wear designers of Milan, the industrial center, did not come to prominence until a decade later. After having served as an apprentice in Paris for five years with Jean Dessés and two years with Guy Laroche, Valentino's design foundation was firmly set in the haute couture tradition of quality, luxury, and a dose of extravagance. He immediately began to attract clients who came to him for his finely crafted, colorful, and elegant designs. By the mid-1960s he introduced his signature trousersuits for day and evening.
In 1968 he created a sensation with his White Collection, featuring short dresses shown with lace stockings and simple flat shoes. The very same year Jacqueline Kennedy chose a lace-trimmed silk two-piece dress with a short pleated skirt, for her marriage to Aristotle Onassis. Yet red has since become Valentino's signature color, a rich shade of crimson with vibrant overtones of orange. He has used it throughout his collections, especially in his lavish evening designs, characterized by magnificent embroideries and meticulous detailing. A section of his retrospective exhibition was devoted to evening jackets covered entirely in elaborately beaded decorations. Typical Valentino details include scalloped trims and hems, raglan sleeves, circular ruffles, complex plays of proportion, and extravagant pattern and texture mixes—like the combination of lace, velvet, and houndstooth in a single outfit.
In 1989 Valentino celebrated 30 years of high fashion with a two-night extravaganza in Rome, and invited hundreds of his high-profile friends, from politicos and royals such as Baroness Marie-Helene Rothschild, Mme. Claude Pompidou, Georgette Mosbacher, Pat Buckley, and Nancy Kissinger to Hollywood icons Elizabeth Taylor, Gina Lollobrigida, and Marissa Berenson. The $5-million affair was a fête to remember, with a sumptuous buffet, champagne, fireworks, flowing fountains, an American 16-piece orchestra, and a retrospective of his work at the Palazzo dei Conservatori museum, designed by Michelangelo in the 16th century. Yet for all the glamour and excess, the retrospective was set to travel to Florence, then on to London, Madrid, New York City, and Tokyo. Proceeds raised from the show were earmarked for LIFE, Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti's private fund for AIDS victims; Giammetti is Valentino's business partner who, from the late 1960s through present day, was fundamental in the worldwide expansion and success the fashion house.
Valentino's devotees flock to him for couture, ready-to-wear, and a vast array of products and accessories including menswear, leather goods, eyewear, furs, and fragrances. He reaches a younger market through his Oliver line of clothing, which is casual but still marked with distinctively refined Valentino sensibility. He produces a special collection of eveningwear called Valentino Night, in which the luxury of his couture designs is adapted for a wider audience. All of his designs, throughout all of his collections, express a singularly opulent view of the world. Valentino's sensibility embraces both timelessness and originality, filtered through a dedication to a luxurious way of life and the commitment to express that lifestyle in his collections. For many Valentino represents not just a style of dressing, but rather a style of living.
—Alan E. Rosenberg;
updated by Sydonie Benét