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					A biography of Valentino

Valentino is regarded as one of the most important and innovative designers in the world of fashion. From his unforgettable runway show at Palazzo Pitti in 1962 to the Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed on him by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2000, to the French Legion of Honour awarded to him by President Chirac, to the Superstar Award received in 2005 from Fashion Group International, his creative and entrepreneurial accomplishments encapsulate the very best that Italy has to offer, making his name a synonym for imagination and elegance, modernity and beauty. Valentino was still a teenager when he left his hometown of Voghera for Paris to study fashion. In what was then the European capital of culture and unrivalled haute couture, he developed and refined his talent and taste working alongside Jean Dessès and Guy Laroche. In the early 1960s he moved to Rome to set up his first atelier. Those were the days of ‘la dolce vita’, with Hollywood stars in town making the movies that would subsequently become part of the history of that era. Word started spreading about a brilliant new creator of fashion, and from there began the rise of Valentino. By the mid sixties he was already considered the undisputed maestro of Italian couture, receiving in 1967 the Neiman Marcus Prize, the equivalent of an Oscar in the field of fashion. The Begum Aga Khan, Farah Diba, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Liz Taylor, Marella Agnelli and Princess Margaret were already customers as well as personal friends. For his unforgettable 1968 ‘white collection’, Valentino invented the use of the monogram as a distinguishing decorative feature. The ‘V’ logo appeared on fabrics and accessories, forming buckles and clasps. It was the first in a string of ideas that would change the history of fashion. During the 1970s and 1980s Valentino was the first Italian designer to launch ready-to-wear collections for men and women; to open boutiques in Rome and Milan, in the United States and Far East; to draw up licensing agreements for the worldwide distribution of his creations; and to devise advertising campaigns with the collaboration of the world’s greatest photographers. In recognition of this, he has received the highest honours possible from the Republic of Italy: in 1985 he was named Grande Ufficiale dell’Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana, and in 1996 Cavaliere del Lavoro. The Metropolitan Museum of New York opened its doors to fashion for the first time in 1982 when it hosted a Valentino runway show. In the same year, Franco Maria Ricci published a lavish monographic book about him, written by Leon Talley. This would be the first of a series to be dedicated to him. In 1984, on the invitation of Italy’s National Olympic Committee, he designed the uniforms for the country’s athletes participating in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. In February 1990, with Giancarlo Giammetti, his business partner from the outset of his professional life, he founded the charity L.I.F.E. under the patronage of Liz Taylor, to help children affected by HIV-related illnesses. The first thirty years of his career were celebrated in 1991 with a succession of prestigious events. ‘Valentino. Thirty years of magic’ was both the title of a monographic book and an exhibition bringing together over 300 of his garments. The Italian state television broadcaster RAI screened a full-length film about Valentino directed by French filmmaker Frédéric Mitterrand, while another show held in Rome’s Musei Capitolini exhibited a collection of works by some of fashion’s leading photographers and illustrators, all inspired by Valentino creations. And Liz Taylor, Claudia Schiffer, Linda Evangelista, Marisa Berenson and Mikhail Baryshnikov were amongst the friends who celebrated with him at a gala evening to which over 400 guests were invited.

Valentino S.p.A. - Via Turati, 16/18 – 20121 Milano – Italia – tel +39 02.62492.1 – fax +39 02.62492.584

The following year, ‘Valentino: Thirty years of magic’ was shown in New York, representing Italy in the ceremonies marking the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. Proceeds from the exhibition, seen by more than 70,000 visitors in its opening two weeks, were donated to New York Hospital to finance the building of a new wing for its AIDS Care Centre. In 2000 Valentino chose to celebrate his 40-year career in Los Angeles. The party, again in aid of charity (this time for the Child Priority foundation), was organised in collaboration with Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. The evening was also the occasion for the presentation of Il libro rosso di Valentino (‘Valentino’s red book’), edited by Franca Sozzoni, containing pictures of 40 women (including Ashley Judd, Gisele, Ines Sastre, Isabella Rossellini, Kate Moss, Liz Hurley, Milla Jovovich and Naomi Campbell), all dressed in Valentino Red and photographed by the top photographers of the day. March 2001. Julia Roberts received her Academy Award for Best Actress (wearing a ‘vintage’ Valentino gown, and was seen in gleaming black silk on television screens, magazines and newspapers the world over, contributing to the launch of what would become one of the most significant fashion trends of recent years: vintage. A few months later, Jennifer Lopez married wearing a white gown especially designed for her by Valentino. During the closing ceremony of the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, broadcast all round the world, it was Valentino who represented Italy and his country’s traditional and rare ability to elevate creativity and craftsmanship to the highest possible levels with supreme elegance and taste. The same year the Valentino brand was acquired by the Marzotto Group, one of the oldest and most highly regarded textile and clothing manufacturers in the world, forming a successful partnership that led, in 2005, to the debut of the Valentino name on the stock market, through the founding of the ‘Valentino Fashion Group’. In 2003, thanks to major new licensing agreements, Valentino launched his Valentino Timeless watches and Valentino R.E.D., a youthful range reinterpreting some of his trademark themes and decorative motifs, combining them with garments with essential lines and ageless cuts, such as those of his jeans, but also of his most classic designs, such as the short ‘Jackie’ coats and the ‘V Logo’ of 1968, which have now become part of the history of fashion. The relationship between Valentino and the female icons of his time continues. Divas such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Cate Blanchett, Renée Zellwegger, Naomi Watts, Patricia Arquette and Sandra Bullock wear his gowns at Hollywood’s most glamorous galas, whilst Athina Onassis, Lavinia Borromeo Elkann, Clotilde Courau of Savoy, Máxima Zorreguieta of Orange and Claudia Schiffer had their wedding dresses designed by Valentino. In 2005, in collaboration with Pronovias, a Spanish company specialising in wedding dresses, Valentino developed his line of ready-to-wear bridal gowns. In the same year, with Arnolfo di Cambio, a leading firm in Italian manufacturing and design, he launched his Home Collection, a household and tableware range of exquisite china, crystal-ware and silverware. Today, Valentino boutiques can be found all over the world. Only in 2005, 18 new stores have been opened, from St Petersburg to Beijing, from Tokyo to Riyadh. And Valentino continues to represent, alongside Ferrari and very few others, the true essence of Italian style and creativity*.
* Osservatorio Valdani & Vicari / Il Sole-24 Ore, 2003

(February 2007)

Valentino S.p.A. - Via Turati, 16/18 – 20121 Milano – Italia – tel +39 02.62492.1 – fax +39 02.62492.584


				
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