The Last Emperor’s Tale

On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the Valentino haute couture Fall 2016 collection was Elizabethan themed, a conveniently fitting trope, considering that so many of the bard’s plays were set in a fantasy Renaissance Italy—Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and so on.

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(Valentino Fall 2016 Couture, Photo: Alessandro Garofalo / Indigital.tv)

It was yet another perfect collection by Valentino that got stuck in my mind for months now… Which is why I decided to pay a little tribute to this grand couture house. Like his movie-star namesake, Valentino is a talent of gargantuan proportions, and Italian icon for whom an entourage and red carpet treatment come as standard. He is not exclusively synonymous with glamour- his name gives subliminal messages of his signature color, red, described by art historian Federico Zeri as “not cardinal red, not tango red, but Valentino red.”

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(Red devils: Valentino with models wearing his dresses Lorenzo Agius, Photo: independent.co.uk) 

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(Valentino-Garavani and Natalia Vodianova at Musee Nissim de Camodo in Paris 2011 Photo: Kevin-Tachman)

Born Valentino Garavani in Voghera, Italy in 1932, he studied French and fashion design at Milan’s Accademia dell’Arte before perfecting his technique at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. In 1950 Valentino assisted Jean Dessès, the Greek couturier who specialized in draping. He moved on to Guy Laroche and assisted Princess Irene Galitzine before establishing his own business in 1960 in Rome’s Via Condotti. His first collection was shown two years later.

Valentino’s “White” collection- unveiled in 1968- generated sufficient press attention to make his name. He dressed Jacqueline Kennedy (publicly wooing her from Oleg Cassini) for her marriage to Aristotle Onasis. In 1991, Elizabeth Taylor asked Valentino to design a dress for her eight trip up the aisle. The creation had a plunging lace neckline and woven ribboned waist.

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For Valentino, read lavish lifestyle, glittering friends and decades of mingling in the most illustrious company. He has homes in London’s Knightsbridge, New York and Capri, as well as a villa on the outskirts of Rome and a chalet in Gstaad. Immaculately groomed and permanently tanned, he buys his ties from Turnbull & Asser, and his shoes from John Lobb. At the weekends he wears Ralph Lauren. If you are (just like me!) obsessed with his work, make sure to download the amazing Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum app and take an online step into his magical world whenever you desire!

Cover Photo: vogue.com