By  on November 22, 2006

NEW YORK — With more energy and events than a junior socialite, Valentino swept into town two weeks ago and proceeded to paint New York red — signature Valentino red, of course. With a staggeringly packed itinerary, the designer spread about his Italian glitz and charmed more than his fair share of pretty young ladies.

He kicked off his Manhattan getaway on Nov. 9 at the Black Ball to benefit Keep a Child Alive, hosted by Iman and Alicia Keys and thrown by Condé Nast Publications Inc. (parent company of WWD). "I've come here for a long, long time — for 40 years," said Valentino of his annual holiday trek here. Despite flying in from London the night before, he arrived fresh and ready to mingle.

He posed with his guest, Anne Hathaway, charming in her alabaster Valentino gown. "It's the one I could zip up without being in pain," the slender actress joked of the floor-length silk confection. "But I'm sucking in like crazy." Of course, that wasn't the first time Hathaway had worn Valentino. The two met when he costumed her for "The Devil Wears Prada," and reconnected at a party hosted on his yacht during the Venice Film Festival. Hathaway said she has every intention of returning the hospitality. "I hope to invite him over for a home-cooked meal."

Valentino also caught up with longtime friend Iman. "She did all my fashion shows in the Seventies," he said of the former model, who looked stunning in a red Valentino number, even though the designer advised against that choice. "He told me I had to wear black because it's the Black Ball," joked Iman. "But I said, ‘No, it's because it's for black people.'"

From there, the Italian legend, long a fan of Hollywood glamour, moved from one lovely starlet to the next. He spent the next afternoon with Kate Winslet, prepping the actress for her various upcoming appearances. But by Saturday, he was looking for a more casual cultural affair, so the designer and his entourage, including Giancarlo Giammetti, Bruce Hoeksema and Carlos Souza, reconvened for lunch at Bar Pitti in the West Village. Afterward, it was on to Phillips de Pury for a peek at lots from the following week's contemporary art auction. Brooke de Ocampo led the tour, putting in a good word for friends Francesco Vezzoli and Vik Muniz, whose self-portrait caught Giammetti's eye.

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