Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 11/20/2014


NEW YORK — Just as the “The Last Emperor” underline of his new book’s title suggests, Valentino Garavani proved to be a master in diplomacy during Tuesday’s Q&A with Fern Mallis at 92Y here.

This was on full display during the event — whether he was deftly dodging questions about his age, (“What? I don’t understand,”) or how the scent of a McDonalds once infused a villa he was working in, (“I am very fussy about food. It is best to jump this question.”) Time and again, the designer effortlessly led his interviewer to breezier moments in his fabled career, with the sold-out crowd laughing approvingly. When Mallis pressed for details about how a 15-day Saint-Tropez holiday once cost him a job early on, Valentino described the importance of his younger self “dreaming all the time…And God gave me all the satisfaction to one day have myself a yacht.”

This story first appeared in the November 20, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Recalling how at 17-and-a-half years old, he asked his father for permission to move to Paris, the designer said that would be like “someone today asking their parent if they want to go buy something on the moon.” As for meeting — and his long partnership with — Giancarlo Giammetti, who was in the audience, Valentino said, “I never knew about business all my life, yeah, yeah, yeah. He took care of the business, the marketing.” He then turned to the audience with, “She wants to know everything. I’m going to tell you which underwear I’m wearing.”

As fans clustered around him at the post-talk reception, the designer’s hooded eyes looked a little weary, though his gray suit was crisp as ever. In the end, he said he enjoyed “turning” the interview and making it his own, emphasizing that “he was very happy,” and called Mallis “divine — she let me say everything.”

And, like any seasoned statesman, there was a little room for legacy building. “My life, I dedicated to beauty, to nice things, to women. I tried to do my best, but I don’t know. In a certain way, at the end, I am quite proud because I did it with lots of love.”

Here, Valentino highlights scenes from his past and gives insights about today’s fashion landscape.

Finding Success
“It’s very important for a designer not just to have an idea but to know how to realize it…The way we used to work, now it is more difficult because life has changed. People work in a different way. People can still be successful, but what I did, and colleagues of mine did, doesn’t exist any more.”

His Own Work Ethic and How Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli Rate
“I was so concentrated in my design and creativity. I had lots of assistants but I never asked them to do something instead of me. I was too concentrated, too jealous of my designing. They do a very good job because they respect the Valentino name. No, I don’t miss designing. I know they work. I see a lot of them. I’m glad they are doing very well.”

Favorite Celebrities
“Meryl Streep — sometimes she comes to lunch and goes to see the cook to ask for the recipe. I have lots of friends. Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Lopez, Keira Knightley…Gisele [Bündchen] is for me the top of the top.”

Meeting Elizabeth Taylor in Rome in the Sixties
“She was still Mrs. [Eddie] Fisher. She said, ‘I have to tell you, if the dress is beautiful and it suits me, I’m going to wear it.’ So I tried my best and she did wear it…I promised her one dress [her dealbreaker for a photo with the designer] and she chose the most expensive one.”

Dressing Jackie Kennedy for Her Wedding to Aristotle Onassis
“WWD was the first to call to ask, ‘Did you make the dress?’ I said I had no idea. Nobody called me for the dress. It was a dress she bought from my collection. It was offered in short and long. The month after the wedding I sold 30 pieces of the short one. This was high fashion.”

Critiquing the 2008 “Last Emperor” Documentary About His Life
“The film shows some things that were very private. I’m screaming. I’m yelling about the collection. I am usually not this way. But when the moment is the moment, I must accept it.”

Primo Socials like Begum Aga Khan, Jacqueline de Ribes, Jackie Kennedy, Lee Radziwill, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Guinness, Maria Agnelli
“Go on, go on…I have to tell you, I think I was one of the happiest, lucky and fortunate people in the world. Sometimes I ask myself, ‘Did you do something to get all these things?’ And of course, I said yes.”

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus