It may be hard to keep up with his many milestones and accolades after a lifelong career, but Valentino Garavani is marking yet another celebratory moment on Wednesday, turning 90 years old.
The city of Voghera, Italy, where the couturier was born, is paying tribute to him with an exhibition of 50 of his storied designs, running from Wednesday to June 5 at the Teatro Sociale.
The site-specific installation displays Valentino creations from the ’60s onward, including a selection of gowns in his recognizable, signature red color.
Sketches, drawings, media clippings, photos and documents complete the exhibition.
For the occasion, the Valentino fashion house has created a limited-edition hoodie bearing Garavani’s ironic mantra in red: “I love beauty, It’s not my fault.”
The hoodie will be launched on Wednesday, available only on the brand’s site. Proceeds from the sale will all go to the Fondazione Valentino Garavani e Giancarlo Giammetti.
The back of the Valentino hoodie COURTESY OF VALENTINO
Most recently, Garavani and Giammetti, the designer’s longtime partner, spent most of their time in Rome. “Rome always had an important part in our hearts. I am Roman, Valentino arrived in Rome when he was 26. We have spent 50 years together in the city, it’s our home,” Giammetti said.
Responding to a question about Garavani’s main qualities, Giammetti responded: “His lack of doubt.”
Giammetti sent WWD a letter to mark his longtime friend’s milestone birthday, seen here:
“A birthday like this is certainly to be celebrated but Valentino prefers not to have big celebrations out of respect for the situation of the war — to see the horrors that pass before our eyes every day, it is not the atmosphere that inspires great celebrations — therefore family and very few friends [are] around him.
“On the other hand, he had birthdays to remember, from Studio54 transformed into a circus for his 50th birthday to the one organized by Tom and Rita Hanks with the Spielbergs in Los Angeles in the ‘90s…to a trip on the Nile with 40 friends in 2001 — and St. Petersburg, Rio, Lisbon, Capri, Marrakech, Las Vegas…there are many to remember….We loved to travel with friends and have fun for birthdays. This will be different — the most intimate.
“And then the real celebration this year is the exhibition in his honor that his hometown Voghera is preparing in the municipal theater, with 50 dresses in display and many celebrations…he wants to visit it as soon as possible.
“The memory of his childhood in Voghera has naturally grown stronger over the years. Even then he was the Boss of his group, deciding the life of his companions and dreaming of distant countries and beauties to discover.
“And life took him far and he discovered how to interpret beauty…
“I remember your newspaper nicknamed him ‘The Chic’ for the continuous search of new ways to respect the beauty of women.
“‘I love beauty…it’s not my fault’ has become a mantra, a phrase that in seven words contains his secret.
“In today’s world, where fashion has undergone an epochal change giving women the right to choose and combine different pieces, Valentino has understood the need and evolution.
“Pierpaolo [Piccioli] himself created a Valentino woman of today respecting the legacy and the codes that Valentino passed on to him in 13 years of working together…And it’s great success especially when compared with what happened to all the other maisons when the founder left.…It is the only brand that speaks a language that the world has already heard.
“A lot has changed but the memories of extraordinary things, are always with us, but without regrets or nostalgia.
“And my admiration, devotion and love for him are the same as when I met him 60 years ago.”
Pierpaolo Piccioli, creative director of the Valentino maison, shared his memories of Garavani with WWD.
“I have always admired Valentino Garavani’s ability to transform his personal vision in a concrete creation. During the ’60s, he imagined a charismatic woman and created her. Working with him allowed me to understand the man behind the legend, and the importance of human value, in anything you do. The major lesson I learnt from him is the constant search for beauty. This is what he has looked for during his whole career, with passion and determination.”
Piccioli’s admiration for the designer has not waned. “Valentino is an unbeatable perfectionist. Last March, after one of my shows, he wrote me he loved the neckline of the first look. I had designed it as a streetwear reinterpretation of the Renaissance Madonna, but what he liked about the neckline was its shape: it rose on the breast and covered it. He had noticed a detail I wasn’t even aware of. From two different perspectives, we had come to the same conclusion: beauty.”