Born to Teresa de Biaggi and Mauro Garavani in Voghera Italy on 11th May 1931, a young Valentino Garavani would discover a passion for design whilst attending primary school. A passion that would not pass unnoticed thus he would be apprenticed under the guidance of his Aunt Rosa and local Voghera designer, Ernestina Salvadeo who was the aunt of soon to be classmate Aldo Giorgini.
With the avid assistance of his mother and father, having exhausted any opportunity to learn further in his home town, Valentino who was now in his mid-teens was encouraged to pursue his interests in Paris. There he chose an apprenticeship under the guidance of Jacques Fath and later stepped into the shadow of the fashion house, Balenciaga where he learned the flavours of Spain from an uncompromising couturier referred to by Christian Dior as “The Master of Us All”.
Valentino studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts and then at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. It was whilst striding through France’s fashion houses, he landed apprenticeships with Jean Dessès with whom he assisted Countess Jacqueline de Ribes to record her dress concepts over several sketches. He spent five years drawing dress styles and assisting with window design when he wasn’t greeting the rich and famous clientele for the daily 2.30 pm showings.
Having completed his formal training in Paris, under the influential guidance of his friend Guy Laroche with whom he had spent two years in his “tiny fashion house,” Valentino discussed his intention to return to Italy with his parents. It was 1959 and he was ready to launch his own haute couture house of fashion in Rome.
By 1960 Valentino, who had envisioned an establishment redolent of the grand houses of fashion he had seen and worked in, in Paris, was now situated on the exclusively opulent Via Condotti. During his early shows when models flew in from France, Valentino gained national recognition for his penchant for scarlet. It was a shade that would become his widely known signature as “Valentino Red”.
It was 1962 when the international debut for Valentino was held at the Pitti Palace in Florence and quite deservedly paved his stature for elegant and exclusive designs that attracted women from every corner of the globe. Viewed as the apocalypse with foresight, the young designer was inundated with orders having basked in critical acclaim.
The House of Valentino became the epitome of Italian couture and was dressing clientele including the Begum Aga Khan, Queen Paola of Belgium and movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. However, Valentino’s most prominent client was Jacqueline Kennedy whom after noticing a two-piece ensemble worn by Valentino’s friend Consuelo Crespi, sought to know the name of the designer. It was 1964 and Valentino was due to present a collection of his work at a charity ball being held at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Jacqueline Kennedy although wanted to see the collection, could not attend the event so Valentino sent a model and a sales representative together with several strategic pieces to her apartment on Fifth Avenue. Mrs Kennedy who was in mourning after her the assassination of her husband, ordered six black and white pieces which she wore during the rest of the year. She would become and remain a loyal client and close friend to Valentino who would also design the dress she would wear when she wed Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968.
While the market in the mid-sixties was certainly dominated by psychedelic colours for a brief time, Parisian designers adhered to their own forecasts. Valentino also remained true to himself and introduced haute couture to the rest of the world creating a sensation with a “Daring to be Unique” White collection. With no less than astonishing poise, he presented models dressed in shades of white, cream, ivory, beige and pale eggshell and convinced the fashion industry once again, he was a refined fashion epicurean.
It was the 1991, Valentino celebrated 30 years in couture with a two evening gala celebration in Rome. Guests from political circles and Hollywood icons to royalty attended and the $5 million event was an affair to remember. The proceeds raised were earmarked for LIFE, a private organisation of Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti’s fund for AIDs victims.
In 2007 Valentino announced he would retire come January 2008 after his very last haute couture show in Paris at which he received a standing ovation from the entire audience. Then having become very briefly involved in acting, he appeared in the movie The Devil Wears Prada and later was also the topic of a 2008 feature length documentary. Valentino possessed a timelessness, uniqueness and dedicated originality that heralds back to his innate sense of style he knew needed to be expressed when he was a young lad.
Main Image: Wiki