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Like many of his design peers, Valentino Garavani was born in Italy. He studied French and fashion design. While still a student, Valentino was already earning notoriety, snagging the coveted design prize by the International Wool Secretariat, an honor shared by Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent. Fresh out of school, he studied under couturier Jean Desses and later Guy Laroche. Valentino had a lavish gala in Rome to launch his first collection in 1960.
The Definition of Success
If awards define success, Valentino achieved it many times over, notably when France's president awarded him the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. If celebrity is your measure, he earned this creating wedding dresses for both Jennifer Lopez and Jackie Onassis. If money signifies success, look to the 211 million pounds he earned selling his company in 1998.
Ladies who lunch may wear Chanel, but when night falls and they have a gala to get to, they change into formal wear designed by Valentino. Valentino defines opulence and glamor, eschewing minimalism and masculine style for silk chiffon, full-length gowns, gleaming satin and fitted bodices. When it came time to dress Meryl Streep's fashion editor character in "The Devil Wears Prada," it was in Valentino. Since the brand's launch, the designer has professed his love for dressing women in feminine style.
Women's fashion needs have changed over the years, and the Valentino label, no longer under Valentino's direction, has accommodated some of these changes. Valentino designs now include daywear such as leather pants and even T-shirts. These aren't the T-shirts you wear to pop out to the store, however, unless the store happens to be Saks Fifth Avenue. Couture design defines the cuts, stitching and embellishments. When you pay nearly $600 for a shirt, it may come with a cascade of sequins or alternating strips of crinoline and tulle. One complicated style featured a fabric orchid embellishment constructed from scraps of organza and lace and dusted with sequins. The designers then photographed the organza and printed it on the inside of the T-shirt.
Beyond the Catwalk
Valentino lives a lavish lifestyle beyond the catwalk. He celebrated his 30-year anniversary of the brand with a three day party, inviting 1,600 guests to a party that cost over two million pounds. He owns several homes around the world, including luxury digs in Gstaad and the island of Capri. He also enjoys the sea-faring life aboard his yacht.