Fashion Heroes: V for Valentino

I know what women want. They want to be beautiful.
— Valentino Garavani

And beautiful is what every style maven, dressed in Valentino, feels. 

Since 1960, the house of Valentino has been a beacon of glamour. The house's long-list of clientele consists of the creme de la creme of high society and fashionable Hollywood A-listers. They include royalties and first ladies such as the Begum Aga Khan, Farah Diba, Lee Radziwill, Queen Paola of Belgium, screen legends such as  Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, socialites Babe Paley, Gloria Guinness, Marella Agnelli, Jayne Wrightsman, Marisa Berenson, and top model Veruschka. These ladies of style were not only fans of the fashion maestro but also personal friends, making him their go-to couturier for any important occasion. 

Born and raised in provincial Voghera, Italy, the young Valentino loved going to the movies and, as young 13-year-old boy, was inspired by the beauty and grace of the screen sirens. One particular film that made a great impact to his life is Ziegfield Girl. In the documentary film Valentino - The Last Emperor, the designer proclaimed that watching the film, changed the course of his life. "I think from that moment, I decide I want to create clothes for ladies,” he said. 

Valentino moved to Paris and studied fashion during the golden age of the haute couture. Afterward, he honed his skills in the salons of Jean Dessès and Guy Laroche.

In late 1959, Valentino returned to Italy and opened the doors of his own lavishly appointed atelier, and began charming Rome’s elite. Success came easily to the handsome young designer. Vogue once wrote that Valentino's dresses were "clean and modern, yet unabashedly feminine - with bows, flowers, ruffles, lace, embroideries - always in the finest fabrics, always molto elegante". 

In his first collection, there appeared what would become his signature: a dress the colour of poppies, later known as “Valentino Red".

Celebrities in Valentino: Olivia Palermo, Rachel Zoe, Claire Danes, Courtney Love and Sarah Jessica Parker

Diana Vreeland, Vogue’s then-editor, then took him under her wing as well, and by 1967 the “new darling of the eminently fashionable”, as Time magazine called him, was dressing the world’s most celebrated beauties.

“I have them all now", he proudly told the newsweekly. "They" include Former American First Lady and style icon Jacqueline Kennedy, who would for a time wear Valentino almost exclusively, counted him as a close friend.

For the next few decades, Valentino worked to create a formidable fashion empire that's revered by many in the industry and had garnered fans from all walks of life and from all over the world. 

The iconic custom vintage Valentino gown, worn by Julia Roberts in 2001, at the Academy Awards. Roberts not only won the Best Actress award for her role in Erin Brokovich but also topped many best-dressed lists.

In 2007, Valentino announced that he would retire fully from the world stage after his last haute couture show in Paris in January the next year. He delivered his last women's ready-to-wear show in Paris in October of 2007.

His last haute couture show was presented in Paris at the Musée Rodin. The collection received a standing ovation from the entire audience that included hundreds of notable names from all areas of show business. Many models returned to walk for Valentino's last haute couture show, including Eva Herzigova, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Nadja Auermann, Karolina Kurkova and Karen Mulder.