From the moment he fixated his gaze on stars of the silver screen Lana Turner and Judy Garland performing on stage, Valentino Garavani made the decision to spend his life creating "clothes for beautiful ladies".
Italian-born Garavani founded one of the world's finest couture houses, which he led for an admirable 45-years. Documentary, Valentino: The Last Emperor, captures the essence of the man who achieved such a feat and who openly admits his vanity and love for aesthetics: "I love beauty; It's not my fault."
Garavani says his mother accused him of being "a dreamer". In his defense, he considers himself incapable of anything other than designing clothes for women "who want to be beautiful"; "I am a disaster in everything else," he says.
The documentary tells the story of Garavani's life, provides an insight into his relationship with business partner and lover Giancarlo Giammetti and reveals the efforts expended in creating one of his haute couture collections (SS/2006). In one scene, when Garavani appears frustrated by the sheerness of the fabric used for a gown, he comments aloud, "I make dresses for women who actually wear them." A sentiment rarely expressed in the clothing created by today's modern designers.
The final section of the documentary records the preparation that went into and the highlights from Garavani's 45-year anniversary celebration. To celebrate his 45-years in fashion, Garavani held an exhibit of some 300 of his finest creations at the ancient sacrificial altar Ara Pacis in Rome. A post-exhibit gala dinner followed at the Temple of Venus in the Imperial Forum, with the Colosseum covered in red and mauve light as a captivating backdrop. He also held a runway show and a post-show gala dinner at the Villa Borghese. Fellow attendees of the celebration included long-time friend and designer Karl Lagerfeld and actresses and ardent wearers of Valentino couture Uma Thurman, Anne Hathaway, Elizabeth Hurley and Sarah Jessica-Parker
Upon announcing his retirement in January 2008, Garavani was asked what would happen post his departure, to which he replied, "After me, the flood". These words are attributed to the King of France Louis XV (1710-1774), with the meaning, “After my reign, there will be chaos and destruction.”
Garavani's last women's ready-to-wear collection (Haute Couture SS/2008) was shown in Paris in October 2008.
A testament to the foundations he laid, the Valentino empire continues to dominate the runways today with Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli appointed as creative directors.
Valentino: The Last Emperor can be purchased from Amazon.com.