If we say red, what are you thinking about? If you’re truly fashion addicted, it’s impossible you haven’t think about Valentino! This maison is more than just a colour: it’s the amazing journey of a great designer, a true “emperor”, both on the personal and on the professional side. Even after his retirement, this brand has been able to mantain his role in the fashion industry until now. So, sit down and relax: today The Blonde Salad is here to tell you everything about maison Valentino!
The Fifties: Valentino’s first steps into fashion
In 1950, Valentino Garavani, at just 17 years old, left his hometown Voghera to start a careeer in fashion in Paris. He’s always been passioned about fashion and couture and, after being an apprentice under his aunt Rosa and local designer Ernestina Salvadeo, he went to Paris to attend the well known École de La Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. In these years, a very young Valentino started to work for designers like Jean Dessès and Guy Laroche.
In these years, Valentino found the perfect colour to identify his view on fashion. He saw a production of Carmen in Barcelona, where all the dancers were dressed in red. “I said to myself: I want to keep this colour in my life forever”, said Valentino. This is how “red Valentino” born. This special shade between crimson, purple and cadmium will always lead the way of this maison.
In 1957, after some discussions with his parents, Valentino came back to Italy and open, thanks to the financial backing of his father and other associates, his first atelier in via Condotti in Rome. But business didn’t go very well, especially because of Valentino’s luxury lifestyle that dried out all the maison’s cash. Giancarlo Giammetti, an architecture student, was going to save him from bankruptcy. Nothing would never be the same again: Giammetti entered in Valentino’s life, becoming is business partner for life and also his lover for 12 years.
The Sixties: Valentino became the emperor of fashion
1962 is a turning point for Valentino. Thanks to its first fashion show at Palazzo Pitti’s Sala Bianca, in Florence, buyers got crazy for him, sending his collection sold out in a few hours. Valentino’s name started to spread all over the world, especially in the Usa, and it arrived also to Jackie Kennedy‘s ears. In 1964, JFK’s widow ordered the couturier to create some dresses, that she wore during her mourning year. Four years later, Garavani made her dress for her wedding with Aristotele Onassis. It’s more than just a designer-client relationship, it’s a true friendship: Jackie O’, in fact, spent a lot of time in Italy for her holidays, always with Valentino by her side.
The friendship with Jackie opend to Valentino the doors to an elitary clientele all over the world. Celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor, Marella Agnelli, Farah Diba and Paola del Belgio fell in love with Valentino’s style. Garavani was considered the master of couture and one of the designers that could best express the ideal of femininity. His clothes are a a mix of old school elegance and refined sensuality, where prints, ruches, sild and sparling details are the fil rouge among the collections.
“I know what women wants, they want to be beautiful”: that is so true, even today! He always considered beauty as the most important thing in his work. “I love beauty, it’s not my fault!”: that’s the quote that best expresses his glamourous and inimitable lifestyle. In 1967 he gained the ultimate consecration thanks to Women’s Wear Daily magazine, that crowned him the “king of italian fashion”.
The Seventies and Eighties: the global expansion of the maison
In Seventies, Valentino left Rome for New York, where he got in touch with Andy Warhol and Diana Vreeland, the powerful editor in chief of Vogue America. These years in Usa influenced Valentino not only on the creative side, but also on his business approach. Valentino wanted to build a global brand, that can dress different targets and make them feel as part of the Valentino universe. In 1978 he signed an agreement with Gft to produce his first ready to wear line, the first brick that Valentino puts on the ground to build an empire of new licencees and brands, like Valentino Uomo, Red Valentino and Oliver, a label inspired by his famous Pugs.
The Nineties: Valentino started his retirement
In the Nineties, Valentino was still on top. It’s the supermodel era and the fashion people are always on glossy magazines. Valentino, together with designers like Versace, Armani, Ferré and Krizia, represented the italian fashion system in the world. At the top of his career, Valentino started his slow retirement from the fashion scene. In 1998, Valentino and Giammetti sold the maison to Hdp private equity, even if they kept all their roles in the company.
The 2000s: the emperor last farewell and the battle for his succession
In 2002, Valentino changed its owner again. Hdp, in fact, sold the maison to Marzotto group. This is the beginning of a complicated relationship between the new management, more interested in figures and results than creativity and trends, and Valentino. In 2007, for the 45th anniversary of the brand, Garavani announced his definitive retirement: after many years on the Parisien catwalks, he came back in Rome for a three-days celebration in july, in which he exhibited his beautiful creations at Ara Pacis. This event was immortalized by the iconico documentary “Valentino: the last Emperor”, that followed Valentino in his everyday life from june 2005 to july 2007. His very last runway show will be in january 2008 for Haute Couture spring summer 2008 collection. Meanwhile, Valentino passed again from Marzotto to Permira private equity.
Valentino’s heritage is heavy and the one that had to take it in her hands is Alessandra Facchinetti, Gucci ex creative director. Her appointment will never be accepted by Valentino and Giammetti themselves, that are still in the company even if they don’t have executive roles anymore. Marzotto, that are still on board, decided for Facchinetti independently. The relationship between Facchinetti and the maison immediately started in the wrong way: after only three seasons, her experience as Valentino’s creative director was over.
In 2009, two designers are called to take the helm at the maison. They’re so beloved by Garavani that everyone, in the industry, called them “i Valentini”. They’re Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, directors of the accessory lines. They found themselves at the top of the brand and they started to build a path of growth and success thank to their sophisticated but contemporary imagery.
Valentino’s success is under the radar of financial groups, that established a real battle to conquer the control of this brand. Qatar’s royal family, at the end, won the competition in 2012, purchasing the maison from Permira and helping it to reach 1 billion euros sales. In 2016, after Maria Grazia Chiuri stepped down to become Dior’s creative director, Pier Paolo Piccioli was confirmed as the one and only man to guide Valentino’s path. With the blessing of Garavani’s himself!
Valentino in 2018
What is Valentino today? A maison that still follow its founder’s message: to make women beautiful. Its refined elegance, never too exposed, is the key of its never ending success and its skill to speak with younger generations. The latest cults? The Candystud bag, with its new VLTN logo, and Rockstud shoes. Valentino’s icons, today, are celebrities like Anne Hathaway, Olivia Palermo and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Valentino is so close to Millennials and Gen Z thanks to social networks, especially Instagram. If you want to keep in touch with Valentino’s world, you need to follow the official @maisonvalentino Instagram account. To get more into Mr. Valentino’s fabolous life, you have to take a look as well @realmrvalentino, his personal and official profile, and also @giancarlogiammetti‘s one, a close eye to their amazing lives.
Fashion history lesson is over, but you can still take a bite of Valentino’s world looking at our gallery below!