The Rise of Valentino Garavani
By: Megan Wilson
Born on May 11, 1932, in Voghera, Italy, Valentino Garavani created some of fashion’s most iconic collections and dressed the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, and Audrey Hepburn and even coined his own color, “Valentino Red.” Valentino’s designs are famous for their intricate details with combinations of lace and velvet. He was not afraid to design clothes that weren’t mainstream, which allowed him to break barriers in the industry.
Garavani’s career began in 1949 when he was 17 years old. He moved to Paris to study at École des Beaux-Arts and at the Chamber Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. After apprenticing with Jean Desses, Valentino went back to Rome in 1959 to open his own fashion house where he soon became known for his luxurious red dresses.
In July 1960, Valentino met Giancarlo Giammetti in Rome and they became partners both in business and in life. While their romantic relationship was short-lived, they spent the rest of their careers together. Giammetti was the manager of commercial development for the House of Valentino and has said that in the last 50 years of knowing Garavani, the two have not spent more than eight weeks apart.
In 1962 in Florence, Garavani made his worldwide debut with a couture collection at the Pitti Palace, which attracted the attention of celebrities and socialites alike.
In 1967, Garavani received the Neiman Marcus Fashion Award for Distinguished Service in the Field of Fashion. Recipients of this award include non-American-based designers, journalists, celebrities, and style icons who have done a distinguished service in the fashion industry. Winning a Neiman Marcus Fashion Award marked the moment a designer became internationally recognized.
In 1969 the designer opened his first ready-to-wear shops in Milan and Rome and spent the ‘70s working in New York to launch his first children’s wear and young adults line. He named his young adults line after his beloved pug, Olivier.
On July 6, 2006, the President of France gave Valentino the medal of the Légion d’Honneur, the highest decoration given out in the country. In 2008, he released a feature-length film Valentino: The Last Emperor that gave a behind-the-scenes look at his life and relationships. Giammetti and Garavani have always had a special relationship and in the film, Giammetti says if anything happened to Valentino, it happened to him as well. When Valentino won the Legion d’Honneur, people said he should have won too, but to him, he had.
In 1998, Valentino sold his company for $300 million and again in 2002. He said he was ready to leave fashion when he sold his company and on September 4, 2008, he officially announced his retirement.
While Garavani does not professionally design anymore, he sketches and draws in his free time. As for the future of Valentino, Pierpaolo Piccioli is the creative director as of 2016, but the original spirit of the brand, which Garavani established, remains the same.