Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani, a.k.a Valentino (born 11 May 1933 in Voghera, Lombardy, Italy) is a fashion designer. His fashion house is among the world's most famous haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion empires.
Garavani became interested in fashion while in middle school in his native Voghera, Italy, when he studied under his uncle Rosa and a local designer Ernestina Salvadeo, an aunt of noted artist Aldo Giorgini). At 17 Valentino moved to Paris to pursue this interest with the help of by his mother Teresa Garavani and his father.
He studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and at the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
His first Paris choice had been Jacques Fath, then Balenciaga, where Valentino's Latin Lover. He then found apprentice jobs with Jean Desses where he used to help Jacqueline de Ribes sketch her dress ideas. He then joined Guy Laroche for 2 years. At Desses, Valentino sketched furiously, between helping with window dressing and greeting clients for the daily 2:30 p.m. private showings. Most of his early sketches were lost. A smattering went on display at a Rome exhibition in 1991, where current clients at that time such as Marie Hélène de Rothschild and Elizabeth Taylor marveled that the DNA of Valentino's style was already apparent in the layers of white pleats and animal prints. After five years, Valentino left Jean Desses under a cloud over an incident about prolonging a vacation in St. Tropez that still makes him wriggle uncomfortably in his impeccably tailored suit. Rescued by his friend Guy Laroche, he joined his "tiny, tiny" fashion house. Just when he had been offered the French equivalent of a green card and after discussions with his parents, he decided to return to Italy and set up in Rome in 1959.
In 1959 Valentino moved back to Italy in Rome opened a fashion house on the posh Via Condotti with the backing of his father and an associate of his. More than an atelier, the premises resembled more a real "maison de couture", being it very much on the line of what Valentino had seen in Paris: everything was very grand and models flew in from Paris for his first show.
On 31 July 1960 Valentino meets at the Café de Paris in Via Veneto in Rome Giancarlo Giammetti. One of three children, Giammetti was in his second year of architecture school, living at home with his parents in the haut bourgeois Parioli section of Northern Rome. His father owned an electronics store near the Via Veneto. That day Giammetti gave Valentino a lift home in his little Fiat and a friendship and long-lasting partnership started. The day after Giammetti was to leave for Capri for vacation and by coincidence, Valentino was also going to there so they met again in Capri 10 days later. Giammetti would shortly after abandon the university to become Valentino's business partner.
Giammetti's entrepreneurial genius will prove fundamental to the worldwide expansion and success of the House. Thanks to Giammetti velentino was able to focus on the creative aspect of design leaving the business intricacies to Giammeti. When Giammetti arrived, the business situation of Valentino's atelier was not brilliant: in one year he had spent so much money that his father's associate pulled out of the business so that Valentino had to fight against bankruptcy. Valentino already had a passion for luxury and would spend too much money on expensive fabrics and never thought about the financial aspects of his fashion business. Valentino and Giametti were then told to start a new company ans so they did. Under Giammetti's wing Valentino business got under control and thing were ready for international success.
Valentino's international debut took place in 1962 in Florence, the Italian fashion capital of the time. His first show at the Pitti Palace was welcomed as a true revelation and the young couturier was submerged by orders from foreign buyers and enthusiastic comments on the press.
After the breakthrough show in Florence, Valentino started to dress the ladies of the international best-dressed crowd like his acquaintance from the Paris years Countess Jacqueline de Ribes and New York socialites Babe Paley and Jayne Wrightsman. In 1966, confident of his client base, he moved his shows back to Rome and there, two years later, he had one of his greatest triumphs, an all-white collection, which became famous for the "V" logo he designed.
In 1964 Jacqueline Kennedy bought six of his couture dresses, all in black and white, to wear during her year of mourning after J.F.K.�??s death. Jackie had seen countess Gloria Schiff, twin sister of the Rome-based fashion editor of American Vogue in the early 60s and Valentino's friend Consuelo Crespi, wearing an ensemble in two pieces in black organza at a party. Jackie called Gloria to know the name of the designer. In September 1964, Valentino had a show at the Waldorf-Astoria for a benefit. Since Jackie wanted to see the clothes he sent his saleslady, along with a model, to Jackie's apartment on the Fifth Avenue. Mrs. Kennedy ordered six outfits and from then on she became a devout client and a friend. Valentino later on would also design the white dress that Jackie wore to her wedding with Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis.
Throughout the 1970s Valentino spent considerable time in New York City where his presence was embraced by social personalities such as Vogue's editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland and art identities such as Andy Warhol.
Valentino's mother, Teresa, moved from Voghera to Rome to help with the business. Eventually both his parents moved to Rome and lived with Valentino. Valentino and Giammetti were together for 12 years. Neither ever discussed their relationship with anyone outside their closest circle of friends-not even with their mothers. Teresa Garavani and Lina Giammetti lived with their sons until the women died, Teresa in 1977 and Lina in 1996.
John Fairchild, editor-at-large at Women's Wear Daily and W, told Vanity Fair (August 2004): Valentino and Giancarlo are the kings of high living. Every other designer looks and says, �??How do they live the way they do?�?? I don�??t think they made the money that Valentino and Giancarlo did, because Giancarlo knows how to make money. If they did, they didn�??t spend the money like Valentino. No other designer ever did. When the terrorism first started in Rome - the period when the Red Brigades were kidnapping people - Valentino was riding around in a bulletproof Mercedes. And do you know what color the Mercedes was? Red. My God, I thought, you must want to get blown up.
1989 marked the opening of the Accademia Valentino, a cultural space located near his atelier in Rome, for the presentation of art exhbitions. The next year, encouraged by their friend Elizabeth Taylor, Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti created L.I.F.E., an association for the support of AIDS-related patients, which benefits from the activities of the Accademia Valentino.
In 1998 Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti sold the company for approximately $300 million to HdP, an Italian conglomerate controlled, in part, by the late Gianni Agnelli, the head of Fiat. In 2002, Valentino S.p.A., with revenues of more than $180 million, was sold by HdP to Marzotto Apparel, a Milan-based textile giant, for $210 million. It was rumored that HDP was displeased with Valentino�??s and Giammetti�??s personal expenses, a claim Giammetti has bristled at: businessmen have a perspective of fashion which is completely old-fashioned, they believe fashion is a little show with models-beautiful girls they would like to know-who walk on the runway. They don�??t know how much work is behind it, and how important the image of the founder and the designer is for the company. You cannot talk about the dresses of Valentino without thinking about him, and when you think about him, you think about the glamorous life he leads, and all that adds to the product(Vanity Fair, August 2004).
Today Valentino's clothes can be seen on the most sophisticated and elegant women in the world, from Nicole Kidman to Gwyneth Paltrow to Halle Berry, without forgetting many royal princesses such as Máxima of the Netherlands, Mette-Marit of Norway and Marie-Chantal of Greece.