It’s the custom in New York City for the Empire State Building to be lit in different colors, to honor various seasons and events. Green on St. Patrick’s Day; pink to pay homage to the fight against breast cancer. Etc. This November, the Empire State should have been lit up in red—Valentino red. For the Emperor was in town, promoting his new book, and boy did he make a splash.
The excitement started on the 6th, as the new Valentino flagship on 5th Avenue played host to a cocktail soiree for At the Emperor’s Table, Mr. Valentino’s just-published tome about his dolce vita approach to entertaining. Publishers (and friends) Martine and Prosper Assouline were in attendance, as were pals such as Anne Hathaway and Andre Leon Talley, who wrote the book’s fine introduction. Meanwhile, fans of all stripes lined up to have Mr. Valentino sign their copies of the book, as Mr. Giammetti stood by, taking snaps. (Perhaps they’ll make their way into another book soon—Private, Part II?) Two nights later, tables were set at Christie’s for another fete—a dinner, appropriately enough, with tables featuring some of Mr. Valentino’s beloved chinoiserie porcelain tureens, as well as an abundance of flowers. Once again, friends old and new were on the scene—everyone from Hamish Bowles and Carolina Herrera to Lauren Santo Domingo and Alexa Chung.
Finally, on November 18th, Mr. Valentino made his way to the 92nd Street Y, for a chat with Fern Mallis, the latest in her “Fashion Icons” series. Mallis proved quite the interrogator—“I never, never in my life say so many things like tonight,” Mr. Valentino joked at one point. “I'm going to tell you which underwear I am wearing!” He didn’t do that, of course, but he did reveal to the rapt audience such intriguing information as the fact that, as a child, he had all his shoes and clothes custom-made, and the reasons he hates clothes from the ‘80s. (Short version: Ugly proportions; vulgar.) He also acknowledged the changes in pace and sensibility of the fashion industry since he retired, saying, “what I did, what my colleagues did—it doesn’t exist anymore.” What will endure, though, are the iconic looks Mr. Valentino designed for clients—and dear friends—such as Jacki O., Elizabeth Taylor and Diana Vreeland, all of whom he discussed with Mallis. Perhaps the most famous Valentino dress of all time was the short, all-white frock Jackie-then-Kennedy wore when she married Aristotle Onassis. Mr. Valentino recalled that the dress was one she already owned—it was “sitting in her closet,” as he put it to Mallis. “The most amazing thing happened,” he noted. “One month after the wedding we sold over 30 orders of the same dress, which was amazing because it was high fashion." Women would still kill for that look today.