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The New York Times

Valentino's Virtual Museum

Touring Valentino's Museum, Virtually By Eric Wilson

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Valentino Garavani is expected to unveil what he is describing as a “virtual museum” this morning with a to-do at the Museum of Modern Art.

(Anne Hathaway is presenting, along with Amit Sood, the creator of the Google Art Project.)

Giancarlo Giammetti, the designer’s longtime partner, gave me a preview on Friday, and let me tell you, without sounding too gushy, it’s spectacular. While a lot of designers have been opening self-aggrandizing museums of late (think of Gucci’s new digs in Florence), the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum is a desktop application that has the look and feel of a video game, and yet presents roughly 300 of Valentino’s iconic designs in a way that is far more elegant than a physical museum could ever hope to be.
The free application, which will be available to download beginning today at www.valentinogaravanimuseum.com, uses 3-D technology to create what looks like an all-white museum with a clear glass ceiling. Using a touch pad or mouse, you can zoom around for different views of the welcoming room that is dominated by a large red cube.
A floor plan leads you to rooms with dresses themed by color (red, white, black and white) or animal prints or embroideries or important moments.
One of the most engaging features is a series of dresses that appear on mannequins positioned in front of poster-size images of a celebrity wearing the dress, or its original sketch. I particularly enjoyed watching Mr. Giammetti make Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress spin around in circles.
There are also videos of Mr. Giammetti and Valentino describing their careers. Mr. Giammetti and Valentino financed much of the development of the application themselves, at a cost of several million dollars, as a testament to the designer’s legacy.
“I don’t think of this as a monument,” Mr. Giammetti said. “In our world, very few people were invited inside, but we wanted all the world to see.”
Valentino himself said he had a difficult time embracing the concept, at first. “I am a disaster with computers,” he said. “I still have a letter book with all my phone numbers in it, but now I completely understand it.”
Over time, he said, he hopes to add features to the site that will enable design students to explore more of his work, encouraged by the amount of attention he has received since the success of Matt Tyrnauer’s 2008 documentary, “Valentino: The Last Emperor.”
“I wanted to give a complete vision of my work, not just the dresses, but the world in which they were born,” Valentino said. “I don’t need a museum to remember my collections, but sometimes it is good to look back and remember every dress and every stitch.”
By Eric Wilson
05 December 2011
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