Anyone who cares the least little bit about fashion and style should see Valentino: The Last Emperor, a documentary that follows the designer's final two years of his career. I'm the first to admit I don't think I have ever examined a piece of couture in real life, and it was truly eye-opening to see the painstaking detail that went into each couture gown that Valentino designed. It was amazing to see what a perfectionist he really is- the movie didn't hide the fact that he would be a difficult and demanding boss. But the beauty of the end product made all the work well worth it.
As you can imagine, Valentino's process starts with a sketch. A true artist, he draws everything by hand, just off the top of his head as he is inspired. His sketches look like frameable art to me!
Next, he describes his vision for the dress to his seamstresses. I was amazed by these beautiful and talented women. They wear sterile white jackets over their pretty clothes and beautiful jewelry as they sew every detail by hand. If you think couture is made in a dark factory with downtrodden, sleep-deprived workers, think again. Most of his seamstresses seemed every bit as glamorous as the women who wear his dresses. Valentino said that at one point during his career he purchased a sewing machine, but it had never been used, as everything is done by hand. All of the seamstresses work closely together and truly appreciate the fact that Valentino expects perfection at all times.
How could you not be inspired working in this environment?!
Valentino definitely has something to say about every dress that comes out of his studio. He is very opinionated and demands perfection, yet he does not hide his appreciation for a job well done.
A large part of the movie focused on Valentino's 45 year working and personal relationship with Giancarlo Giametti. There is a very interesting dynamic to this relationship- an obvious and very deep level of trust and respect exists between the two. And they are hilarious together. Giancarlo is a straight shooter who does not hesitate to tell Valentino things like, "You look a bit too tan."
They are both looking pretty tan here...
Of course, we would be too tan as well if we owned Valentino's yacht. Or spent holidays skiing in Gstaad (he has a home there as well).
I saw this movie with my sister, and we died laughing throughout it. Valentino really is hilarious- he has that dry sense of humor that we love. And he certainly has a flair for the dramatic. One of my favorite Valentino quotes from the movie is, "An evening dress that reveals a woman's ankles when she is walking is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen." And he says it with such fervor and disgust that you would assume he was referring to animal cruelty or spousal abuse. But nope, just exposed ankles.
The movie did a great job capturing the conflict that exists between a passionate designer and the corporate aspects of running a fashion house. Valentino sold his company to a large conglomerate several years ago, and he made no secret of his distaste for the new owners. They were encouraging him to design more handbags, shoes, perfume, etc which obviously are much more profitable for the company than a single gown that takes hours and hours to produce.
Towards the end of Valentino's career, it became very obvious that the company was forcing him into a direction in which he had no interest in moving. He did not want to do perfume or a cheaper line of clothing (think Valentino Red) or slouchy hobo bags with dangly gold V's. And ultimately, he was forced out by the management. It was sad to see, yet he was able to reflect upon and appreciate his 45 year career. And I suppose that is a risk any designer takes when deciding to sell to a large company- loss of control.
But he certainly was sent-off in style! His last show was a 3-day event in Rome, where he joked that he wanted to "paint the Coliseum red." And he did just that! (with the help of some talented lighting engineers).
Dozens of high profile celebrities (Gwyneth, Anne Hathaway, Liz Hurley), magazine executives (A-Dubs, Hamish Boles who we love by the way), and socialites came to Rome for the finale. It included a showcase of hundreds of his couture gowns from over the years.
Some pretty navy gowns!
Gwyneth P. flanked on either side by Valentino and Giancarlo.
Claire Danes with exposed ankles.
And just for fun, some of our favorite gowns from Mr. Garavani... Cameron Diaz, just after her break-up with Justin. She received mixed reviews for this dress, but we think it is absolutely stunning. Anne Hathaway, in Valentino's signature red.
Liz Hurley. She is so feminine and beautiful. This gown perfectly highlights her perfect hourglass.
Claudia Schiffer, looking stunning in aqua.
Karl Lagerfeld's muse Diane Kruger. Karl was much less creepy in the movie than we expected him to be (based upon his 24/7 gloves, sunglasses, cane, etc).
Reese, cute as a button as always.
Valentino: The Last Emperor is still playing in some cities. It's worth a look for some fashion inspiration!