Monday 15 November 2010

Valentino Red

Red has guts…. deep, strong, dramatic.

A geranium red. A Goya red …

to be used like gold for furnishing a house … for clothes, it is strong, like black or white.


Valentino became known for his red dresses, in the bright shade that became known in the fashion industry as ”Valentino red” ~ rosso Valentino.

Although Valentino often drew on a voluptuous, nuanced colour palette, Valentino also used areas of flat, vivid colour to transform the shape of a dress, such as the poppy red that became his trademark. The colour was reportedly inspired by the opera in Barcelona; as a teenager, he marvelled at the way women seated in the opera house balconies seemed like baskets of red flowers.

Emma Watson looking beautifully rested in Valentino.

Iris Strubegger is the face of Valentino’s Fall 2009 campaign. She appears confident and authoritative sitting in a dark red chair wearing a red Valentino dress.

The Valentino red became one of the pillars of his collections (according to him, it is the only color worthy of competing with black and white). His  trademarked red colour formula is a combination of 100% magenta, 100% yellow and 10% black.

Valentino has long been popular among European royalty, American socialites, and celebrities dressing famous women for more than four decades, including Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Halle Berry, Jennifer Garner, Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Naomi Watts, Claire Danes, Gwen Stefani, Lindsay Lohan, and Gwenyth Paltrow.

Think Valentino: think luxury. Think elegance. Think red carpet.

Brooke Shields wearing haute ciuture S/S 1986.

Anne Hathaway on the red carpet dressed in Valentino.

The first Valentino Red dress appeared in the designer’s debut collection in 1959. Here was a cocktail dress made for catching the eye of the louche, elegant Marcello Mastroianni or stopping traffic on the Via Condotti.

‘Fiesta’, a strapless cocktail dress in draped tulle from Spring/Summer 1959.

The Fiesta red dress with tulle roses on the skirt photographed in 2000 by Peter Lindbergh.

In 2009 Valentino’s longtime assistants Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli took the helm, sending out a series of homages to the head of the house, drawn from his vast archive. The collection took a conservative approach, looking back in time to an era when couture’s position in the fashion hierarchy was unassailable—the duo unearthed many of Valentino’s designs from the ’60s and sent them back out onto the runway.

    Playful Valentino ~ Catch me if you can!

    Valentino is a master of elegance and affluence,

    creating luxurious gowns with intricate detailing and beautiful silhouettes.

    His mastery of classic couture embellishments,

    from embroidery to feather trims, results in breath-taking beauty.

    Valentino exemplifies the extraordinary craftsmanship of haute couture,

    and embraces the beauty of couture technique when creating his glamorous gowns at his atelier in Rome.

    The red party

    Valentino saves signature red until last

    Italy’s veteran designer Valentino kept his devoted fans waiting until the very end of his last haute couture show for a glimpse of his signature red.

    Then just when it appeared to be all over, images of a row of models in Valentino red were projected onto the back walls for the entire length of the runway – and all the show’s 30 models came out wearing identical Valentino Red gowns to rapturous applause.

    An emotional Valentino appeared for his lap of honour blowing kisses to the crowd as they gave him a standing ovation. Val’s gals, as his loyal customers are known, turned out in force for the show, the most glittering event on the calendar in couture week, held in a giant marquee in the grounds of the elegant Rodin museum in Paris.

    His opening sequence of chic wool coats in candy pink, ice blue and pistachio with little matching gloves were a good example of why he will be missed in particular by women whose super-rich and often media-shy husbands like their wives to be dignified ladies rather than rock’n'roll chicks at the cutting edge of fashion. Unlike many other couturiers, Valentino has always shown daywear. In this last collection he sent out pastel wool crepe two-piece skirt suits with belts knotted casually behind, an immaculate white cashmere trenchcoat trimmed with satin, and 1950s silk chiffon tea dresses in floral prints with elbow length gloves in the same print.

    The floral theme continued for cocktails with a frock handpainted with irises while a delicate ruffled bolero in sweet-pea shades looked as if it could have been made from the actual flowers.

    Valentino on Show

    While the King of Couture may have taken his final bow on the catwalks in 2008 his legacy remains as strong as ever and, and galleries are celebrating his craftsmanship with exhibitions of his collections.

    Sexy ladies in red posing at the Ara Pacis in Rome.

    Beautiful, elegant, feminine, seductive…

    Valentino in Rome, 45 years of style

    Designed by Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda at the ancient sacrificial altar Ara Pacis showcased Valentino’s most important creations.

    There were 45 years of evening extravagance on display in the exhibition that accompanies Valentino’s anniversary in 2008. For more images see the earlier posting Ruby paints the town red & waves goodbye to Valentino.

    The Red Thread: The Inspiration and Passion of Valentino Garavani

    Shown in London and New York as part of Samsung’s Imagination Icon series, The Red Thread exhibition honoured Valentino’s contribution to the fashion cannon with a cutting-edge presentation detailing his life, career, and “intricate process of design”.

    It featured a selection of Valentino’s original couture gowns, sketch prints and show images, and footage from the documentary film, Valentino: The Last Emperor, by Matt Tyrnauer.

    Valentino: Thirty Years of Magic

    In 1991, to celebrate Valentino’s thirtieth anniversary in fashion, the Mayor of Rome organises in his honor an exhibition at the Musei Capitolini featuring original drawings, photographs and paintings on his work by the world’s most famous photographers and artists. Valentino himself presents his “Accademia” a retrospective exhibition of his most significant creations with over three hundred dresses.

    The exhibition, named Valentino: Thirty Years of Magic reflects the essence of the Valentino style and his souces of inspiration mainly drawn from art and its applications, from nature, from folk and zoological themes, and his love for emblematic colors such as white, the symbol of dreams and red (the famous Valentino red) as the symbol of life.

    Valentino: Thirty Years of Magic was shown in New York, 1992 to represent Italy at the Comumbus celebrations. The exhibition attracts 70,000 visitors in two weeks, and the proceeds were donated by Valentino to the New York Hospital for the building of a new wing of the AIDS Care Center.

    Valentino, Retrospective: Past/Present/Future’

    A major retrospective exhibition of the House of Valentino was shown In Paris and at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Brisbane. The exhibition incorporated a stunning array of Valentino Garavani’s haute couture designs from the late 1950s through to his final collection in January 2008, as well as recent creations by Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli current Creative Directors for Valentino.

    Valentino’s Red Book ~ Valentino Garavani: Una grande storia Italiana

    If there is nothing like a woman in a red dress, what about 40 women in red dresses?

    Valentino – A Grand Italian Epic showcases the glamourous life and work of Valentino. There are over 700 pages of all things Valentino. His drawings, documentary photographs, magazine shoots, advertisements and of course portraits of Valentino. In addition to all of the eye candy, the book includes Vanity Fair writer Matt Tyrnauer interviews with 20 of the designer’s closet collaborator and friends.

    There are feature images by 40 of the world’s most famous photographers, of Valentino’s creations in red, and the bold beauties who can wear them, movie stars, models and personalities, all doing a variation on one theme: wearing designs – from collections between 1960 and 2000 – made of Valentino Red (0 parts cyan, 100 parts magenta, 100 parts yellow and 10 black).

    Milla Jovovich by Mario Testino

    The Collector’s Edition of his book, Valentino – A Grand Italian Epic ($1800), is autographed and housed in a silk box in his signature vibrant red color and is a historical overview of Valentino’s rise as one of the most respected and celebrated dressmakers. Proceeds from the book as well as the corresponding auction of the original photographs will be donated to the Children’s Action Network, an organization which helps further the education of artistically -inclined but indigent youth.

    Valentino biography

    Just the mention of Valentino makes people see red – a particularly distinct shade of red.

    After nearly 40 years of superlative evening dress designing, Valentino Garavani, known simply as Valentino, sold his company in 1998 for £211 million. In 2006 President Chirac of France awarded this Italian the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur. Then in 2007 retirement age had finally arrived – he was 75 and had done it all: from Jackie Onassis’ wedding dress to J Lo’s. He waved farewell with an extravaganza of a party in Rome.

    • Born in Voghera, Italy, in May 1932, Valentino studied fashion design and French at the Accademia dell Arte in Milan – he then went to the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne
    • While still a student, he was awarded a prize for fashion design by the International Wool Secretariat (later won by both Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld)
    • His first job in 1950, aged 18, was with couturier Jean Desses. He later worked for Guy Laroche
    • Valentino launched his first collection – and salon – in Rome in 1960. He was famed for his full-length skirts, rather than minis: “I don’t think any man in the world wants to go out with a woman dressed like a boy,” he said
    • In 1991, to celebrate 30 years in fashion, Valentino threw a three-day party, reported to have cost £2.5 million, with 1600 guests

    The jet set and the glamorati were his friends whether he at his home in Gstaad, in Capri, or on his yacht. However, when he retired, he chose the company of his pugs.

    Source of Valentino biography: Jo Craven, Vogue UK 2008


    Valentino, 22 Piazza Mignanelli, 00187, Rome, Italy  Tel: +39 06 67391

    {Images: Jason Schmidt; details of the red dressed models posing at the Ara Pacis in Rome are from left: 2002 Collection; 2004; 2003; 2005 (center, top); 2002 (center, foreground); 2005; 2005; and 1987. Photo source: Jason Schmid}


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    5 Responses to “Valentino Red”

    1. Greetings!

      I have referenced this blog post and provided links on Mosaic Art NOW’s blog. ( This is a fantastic post and sent me scurrying to look deeper into your work. I’m hooked. Such wonderful research you put into this space. Thank you. Nancie

    2. Cate says:

      Thank you Nancie! Have a happy day.

    3. Sebastian says:

      What an absolutely fabulous tribute you made for Valentino…the greatest couturier of modern times…indubitably! what a beauiful life he lead and he deserves it all…even some of his arrogance are excused by the marvel and genious of his clothes…imagine being Valentino who understands women and elegance like no one else in history living in a world of denim and miniskirts?….the horror!

      Thank you so much for this wonderful “tribute”

      oh and by the way, Anne Hathaway’s dress is not was designed by Georgina Chapman for MARCHESA….not beautiful enough to be a Valentino!

    4. [...] Images from and [...]


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