"Red has guts…. deep, strong, dramatic. A geranium red. A Goya red …to be used like gold for furnishing a house … for clothes, it is strong, like black or white"
Valentino, birthname Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani was born in Voghera, Italy May 11, 1932.
Drawn to fashion design from a young age, he soon moved to Paris to study at École des Beaux-Arts and the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, while also apprenticing under local designers that included his aunt Rosa and the salons of Jean Dessès and Guy Laroche. After completing his education, Valentino returned to Italy to start his own line in Rome, as aforementioned, in 1959.
When Valentino came back he had a picture impressed in his mind, from the Opera of Barcelona, where the ladies sitting at the boxes, looked like red roses in a basket.
From this memory, he started to obsessively drawing dresses of silk, chiffon where the element of roses and flowers was dominating the scene, and red was the only admissible color, along with black and white, as he used to mention.
Obviously not every red! The Valentino's red, created by him, from unique mix of yellow, red, and black.
In the initial year although the impressive artistic works produced, Valentino, was not having the expected visibility and success, and the young designer was even struggling covering the rent expenses of the first shop in via Condotti.
The year after, however, fate was on his side and he made an encounter that would not only save him from bankrupt but will change his life forever, the one with Giancarlo Giammetti.
Giammetti, became his business and romantic partner, taking care of the marketing side of the maison, and being able to build a brand with a strong identity and international recognition.
In 1962 they launched the first collection at the Pitti Palace in Florence. The show had an enormous success and left Valentino's brand imprint in the fashion history.
The first show was carrying Valentino's brand signature in all its form: red, white and black dresses, flowers, and an ecstatic view of the woman.
In 1967 Valentino had reached a pinnacle of international fame and Italian couture, having been honored with the prestigious Neiman Marcus Fashion Award while also boasting a client list including some of the world’s best dressed women like Queen Paola of Belgium, movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn, as well as Jackie Kennedy. Kennedy in particular was such a fan that in 1964 she ordered six dresses in black and white. She also commissioned him to design the wedding dress for her marriage to Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968.
After almost 50 years of running his fashion house, Valentino retired in 2007 selling his business to an Italian holding, for several million dollars, and he is now dedicating his life to Giancarlo and his beloved dogs.
However the story is not finished, two of the most renown fashion geniuses took the lead of the artistic part: Maria Grazia Chiuri, now leading Dior, and Pierpaolo Piccioli, still nowadays creating for Valentino.
They together revolutionized the brand launching some of the most iconic collections like the Rockstud, reinvented in many form throughout the years and always a success, and the Atelier collection, inspired to the red roses of Valentino.
We are now awaiting to see what other magic Pierpaolo is holding for us in future...
Picture from "The Last Emperor " © Lorenzo Agius