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Marie Claire UK

Visionary Valentino

On the eve of a new exhibition "Master of Couture" at Somerset House, Valentino Garavani talks Jess Wood through the key themes and ideas behind his legendary creations.

On the eve of a new exhiibition "Master of Couture" at Somerset House, Valentino Garavani talks Jess Wood through the key themes and ideas behind his legendary creations.



"Red is a colour that is not shy" Valentino says of the colour forever Iinked in his designs.

"When i was young, I went to see the opera Carmen In Barcelona and the whole set was red - the flowers, the costumes — and l said to
myself, “I want to keep this colour in my life." So I mixed a shade with the people who make fabrics — it contains a certain amount of orange — and Valentino Red became an official Pantone colour."

This shot from 2007 shows Garavani with some of his most famous creations in red, plus his five beloved pugs.




"Thereis a time to show the legs and to show the cleavage, but it's about the cut," Garavani, shown here with Naomi Campbell and other models from his s/s 1997 show, explains. "Clothes should not ridicule a woman; should not make them a fashion victim," he says. ‘What happens too much in fashion today is that designers design for themselves. I always designed for women."







The exhibition at London's Somerset House  also contains pictures fram Garavani‘s own personal archive, like this one at his house in Rome, taken in I980. "They found old pictures that I didn't even remember being taken that related to my beginning, my private life, me with my dogs..." he says.
"They were mainly the work of Giancarlo
[Giammetti - Valentino's business and life partner]. He was the photographer of the family."






Having studied ln Paris, Garavani founded his own maison de couture couture in Rome in 1959, becoming the most famous Italian on the scene.

 "Fashion has become so mass market, with copies [of designer items] in every department store - maybe that’s why there's an interest In something that is unique and dlfllcult to get," he says.

"When I started, couture was only for women of a certain age or who had money but, now, all the Hollywood actresses want is
couture, couture." 

This elaborate design is from his 1959 collection.


















"Jackie was the one who put me on the American map when she decided to dress all in Valentino after the death of the President," he remembers.
"This dress wasn’t actually a wedding dress - it was a short beige lace dress bought from my couture collection six months earlier. I had no idea that she would wear it tor her wedding
[to Aristotle Onassis, right]. The press were following her everywhere and they saw her buying some beige ribbon for her hair. They went through my recent designs and discovered this dress. The day before [the wedding], Women’s Wear Daily even put a drawing of her in it on the cover." Garavani’s other all-time favourite A-lister was Elizabeth Taylor. "I made her a white chiffon dress with a big ostrich hem for the 1961 premiere of Spartacus in Rome," he recalls. "It was the first dress l did for a superstar and the first dress to have a kind of publicity return."





"When I decided to retire in 2007, I had done enough," he says. "l didn’t want to be part of a system that is not so much about designing but about managing the companies, about money, about conglomerates. Why did I need to go through that? I had everything in my life. Valentino was something so personal, with two people, Giancarlo and me, and we wanted to keep it like that."

"Valentino: Muster of Couture" opens at Somerset House, London, on 29 November and runs until 3 March 2013.


For more information, visit somersethouse.org.uk



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