On Thursday night the eve before the official start of Fashion Week, The Museum of the City of New York introduced guests to an oft-unknown designer with a reception for its new exhibit, “Valentina: American Couture and the Cult of Celebrity.”

A Ukranian-born emigré, Valentina Sanina Schlee was arguably a founder of American couture, whose pieces were worn by the likes of Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn and the Duchess of Windsor, and whose shrewd understanding of marketing and bold personality made her a star. And according to one attendee, such accolades and notoriety are still available to today’s style-making crop.

This story first appeared in the February 14, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“I think all designers today are celebrities,” declared Mary McFadden, whose ex-husband Kohle Yohannan’s book on Valentina accompanies the exhibit’s opening.

At least one representative of today’s generation was on hand, despite having a show the next morning.

“I just finished my last fitting,” smiled a relieved Yigal Azrouel. “I came because I needed to be stimulated by something else.”


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