“I love many of them,” Mr. Valentino told Sven Schumann of website The Talks, in an interview published in 2011, “but if I flash back, I have a special, special feeling for Gisele. For me,” he added, “she is now the most beautiful woman in the world.” The Brazilian super-duper model, who turns 35 this month, recently announced her retirement from the runway. She’s walked plenty of them, over the years: Gisele Bundchen made her fashion week debut in 1997, and to say she made a big impact on the industry would be an almost criminal understatement. Dubbed “The Body” by Alexander McQueen, she heralded the rise of the Brazilian bombshell in fashion, invented the now-de rigeur runway “horse walk” and pretty much single-handedly ended the reign of the waif. Since 2004, she has been the highest-paid model in the world; last year, the magazine Forbes ranked her the 89th most powerful woman in the world. She and her husband, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, would appear to be in the process of breeding a new species of genetically perfected human beings.
Obviously, Mr. Valentino isn’t alone in considering Gisele to be in a class by herself. But his “special, special feeling” for her is decidedly mutual: A mainstay of the Valentino runway since 1998, she’s also appeared in numerous campaigns for the house, and after nearly two decades of working closely together, Gisele and Mr. Valentino consider each other great friends. They share a common story, in fact. Like Mr. Valentino, Gisele was raised in a small town—Horizontina, in the Southern part of Brazil—and ascended to the uppermost echelons of the fashion business, only to transcend the industry, and become a symbol, in pop culture at large, of ideal beauty and glamour. It’s no coincidence that the two fashion personalities tapped to appear in The Devil Wears Prada were Mr. Valentino and Gisele: Both resonate with a wide audience. Now that the philanthropist, businesswoman and mother of two has bid adieu to the runway, it won’t just be the folks in the front row who will be missing her iconic stomp.