Valentino Garavani was born in Voghera, Italy, on May 11, 1932. Valentino studied fashion design from a young age, completing his formal training in Paris and starting his own line in Rome in 1959. By the mid-1960s, Valentino was a favorite designer of the world’s best-dressed women, including Jacqueline Kennedy. Among his signatures is a particular fabric shade, known as “Valentino red.”
Early Life and Career
Fashion designer Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani was born on May 11, 1932, in Voghera, Lombardy, Italy. He began working in the fashion industry at a young age, apprenticing under local designers including his aunt Rosa. His formal training took place in Paris, at the École des Beaux-Arts and the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. Valentino got his professional start as an apprentice working in the salons of Jean Dessès and Guy Laroche.
The House of Valentino
Valentino left Paris in 1959 to open a fashion house in Rome. He modeled his business on the grand houses he had seen in Paris. In his early shows, Valentino quickly gained recognition for his red dresses, in a shade that became widely known as “Valentino red.”
In 1960, Valentino met Giancarlo Giammetti in Rome. Giammetti, an architecture student, quickly became Valentino’s partner, both professionally and romantically. Together, the pair developed Valentino SpA into an internationally recognized brand. Valentino’s international debut took place in 1962, at the Pitti Palace in Florence. The show cemented the designer’s reputation and attracted the attention of socialites and aristocratic women from around the world. Within a few years, Valentino’s designs were considered the pinnacle of Italian couture. In 1967, he received the prestigious Neiman Marcus Fashion Award. His client list included the Begum Aga Khan, Queen Paola of Belgium and movie stars Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn.
Among Valentino’s most prominent clients was Jacqueline Kennedy. Kennedy developed an interest in the designer’s work after admiring friends in several Valentino ensembles. In 1964, Kennedy ordered six dresses in black and white, which she wore during the year following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. She would remain a friend and a client from that point on, linking the Valentino name to her own iconic status in the fashion world. Valentino also designed the dress that Kennedy wore when she wed Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1968.
While maintaining strong ties to Florence and Rome, Valentino spent much of the 1970s in New York. In addition to his friendship with Jackie Kennedy, he became close friends with artists such as Andy Warhol. Over the course of his career, Valentino’s primary lines have been Valentino, Valentino Garavani, Valentino Roma and R.E.D. Valentino.
Valentino and Giammetti maintain homes around the world, including villas in Spain, France and Switzerland. These homes are filled with art, which they avidly collect. Valentino has a penchant for dogs, particularly pugs—of which he owns many.
Later Career and Retirement
In 1998, Valentino and Giammetti sold their company for approximately $300 million to the Italian conglomerate HdP. In 2002, HdP sold the Valentino brand to Marzotto Apparel. Valentino remained actively involved with the company throughout these changes in ownership.
In 2007, Valentino announced that he would hold his final haute couture show in January of the following year. This final show, presented at the Musée Rodin in Paris, featured legendary models including Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer and Eva Herzigova, who had worked with Valentino throughout their runway careers.