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Every era has its great models. But the greatest of all eras, model-wise, was?incontrovertibly?the 1990s.

Published a year after Mr. Valentino retired, Valentino: A Grand Italian Epic (Taschen, 2009) is the ultimate Valentino sourcebook. There are stunning archival images dating from the earliest days of Valentino, clips from old reviews and news reports; contributions by Franca Sozzani and Anna Wintour, among many others, and an oral history with anecdotes provided by members of the Valentino tribe, stars such as Sophia Loren and Elizabeth Taylor, major fashion editors and fellow designers, and of course, Mr. Valentino and Mr. Giammetti. This, and much more, makes the book a treasure trove for Valentino fans—and this month and next, we'll be highlighting some of the book's riches.


PART V: Valentino and the Supers


Every era has its great models. But the greatest of all eras, model-wise, was—incontrovertibly—the 1990s. The original trio of supermodels—Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell—were joined by fellow glamazons such as Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Nadja Auermann, Eva Herzigova, Tatjana Patitz, Helena Christensen and Shalom Harlow. Valentino worked with all of them, and A Grand Italian Epic has the glorious shots to prove it.


Perhaps no series of photographs captures this glamorous moment better than the Arthur Elgort-lensed campaign for the Spring/Summer 1995 ready-to-wear collection. Manifesting the spirit of la dolce vita that defined the Valentino brand under Mr. Valentino's creative leadership, the campaign paid homage to the classic Fellini film La Dolce Vita, casting Claudia Schiffer in the part of the Hollywood star Anita Ekberg had played, and shooting her all around Rome as she's stalked by paparazzi. Even Fellini's iconic scene of frolicking in the Trevi Fountain is re-played. A Grand Italian Epic boasts the full campaign—as well as translated text of La Repubblica's coverage of the shoot, in an article titled "Claudia as Anita." " "The ingenious two-day advertising campaign concludes today against the inevitable backdrop of Via Veneto," wrote journalist Laura Laurenzi, "with Schiffer covered in gold."


"The appointment was yesterday morning at nine," continues this charming article, dated October 22, 1994. "But lately the Schiffer's Teutonic punctuality has left a lot to be desired. The supermodel, unruffled, turned up well after 11, while a small crowd of paparazzi and curious onlookers, held in check by Gaspare the doorman, blocked the entrance of the Hotel de la Ville in Via Sistina. 'She's the greatest, the greatest diva of them all. Rome hasn't gone this ape over a diva for the past 20 years, not since the time of Liz Tayloy, Ava Gardner and Brigitte Bardot.'"


Another translated article, from the same year,  goes behind-the-scenes at an epic fashion show staged by Valentino at the Ritz in Paris. Published in Il Venerdi di Repubblica, the piece, by Natalia Aspesi, spares little detail in its recounting of the backstage goings-on, describing, for instance, the mini assembly line that produces a model fit to walk out on the runway. "The model becomes a statue around which four or five people work; one dresses her, while another is at her feet shortening the hemline," Aspesi observed. Meanwhile, she goes on, Serge Normant is "adding the finishing touches to a hairstyle and Brigitte [Reiss Andersen] to the makeup, a young girl fastens the zip and then Valentino the prestidigitator lends that final invaluable touch to fold or bow." Among the 24 models in that show? Schiffer, long-legged Nadja Auermann, and Naomi Campbell, the most super-Super of them all.


Next time: 45 years of dresses






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