Valentino is known for more than his superb work as a couturier. The 80 year old Italian is a worldwide phenomenon recognized for his bold shade of teak skin, a life that puts the term lavish to shame, and an entourage of six quirky pugs who have taken on a celebrity of their own.

Born in Voghera, Italy, Valentino discovered his appetite for fashion in primary school. He studied in Paris at notable schools École des Beaux-Arts and the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. After apprenticing under Jean Desses for five years and then Guy Laroche for two years, Valentino returned to Italy to open his own atelier in Rome on the renowned Via Condotti, with the financial support of his parents. Valentino’s adoration for beauty and the superb life resulted in monstrous spending habits and while his first show in 1959 was a marvellous success the design house was on the verge of bankruptcy. On a summer day in 1960 Valentino met Giancarlo Giammetti at Café de Paris in Rome. The two went on to have a brilliant relationship, with Giammetti at the helm of the finances and business components.

Valentino’s major breakthrough as a top label in the fashion world was in 1962 where he showed a couture collection at the Pitti Palace in Florence for the first time.


One hundred and thirty iconic dresses were displayed in a curated exhibition honouring Valentino Garavani and his grand career as one of the finest Valentinocouturiers in the world. The haute couture wonderland was comprised of specifically selected pieces portraying Valentino’s diversity in design. The gowns spoke of the Italian maestro’s affinity for perfection, excellence and beauty. Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1968 wedding dress seamlessly stood among Valentino’s more modern pieces, a perfect presentation of how truly timeless his designs are. Other gowns included ones worn by Grace Kelly, Sophia Lauren and Julia Roberts.


  • 1959 Valentino’s first show debuts legendary ‘Valentino Red’ dress
  • 1965 Valentino is recognized as the top name in Italian Haute Couture with clients including Jacqueline Kennedy, Queen Paola of Belgium, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Princess Margaret
  • 1967 Valentino is awarded the Neiman Marcus Prize in Dallas
    • 1983 Valentino works with Lincoln Continental, design contributions included unique colour combinations
  • 1986 Receives the highest award possible in Italy from the President, the Cavaliere di Gran Croce (Knight Grand Cross)
  • 1989 Valentino opens a cultural centre in Rome for art exhibitions and cultural activities named the Academie Valentino
  • 1990 Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti found L.I.F.E (initials in Italian for “Fighting, Informing, Building, Teaching”), an association working for the fight against Aids
  • 1998 Valentino sells his company to Holding di Partecipazioni Industriali (HdP) for $300 million but stays on as designer
    • 2007 Valentino announces his retirement
  • 2006 Valentino makes a cameo appearance in The Devil Wears Prada alongside Meryl Streep
    • 2008 Valentino’s final Haute-Couture show before retiring from the world stage. Familiar faces including Naomi Campbell and Claudia Schiffer walk the runway
  • 2009 documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor premieres at the Venice Film Festival
  • 2011 The Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum is launched

By: Shelia May INSIDE NICHE Inspiration issue 2013


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