Almost two decades after famed designer Valentino left Rome to set up shop in Paris, he triumphantly returned this month, celebrating 45 years of outfitting some of the world’s most sought-after women.
And while the gala ball is over, the party goes on with an exhibit of more than 200 outifts, shoes and accessories at the sleek Ara Pacis museum on the Tiber River.
“I am filled with emotion,” Valentino said at the opening of his retrospective in the modern, marble-and-glass venue designed by the American architect Richard Meier.
The exhibit, created by Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda, includes one room lined with dresses worn by famous clients, each accompanied by a video showing when and how the dress was worn.
“What we wanted to create was a spiritual journey,” Kinmonth said, pointing to a room with luxurious gowns hanging from the ceiling. He explained that the gowns were meant to give the effect of “floating ideas.”
The heart of the exhibit is centred around the Ara Pacis monument, with a bevy of gilded goddess-like mannequins — their arms outstretched as if in prayer — girded in red, white or black Valentino gowns. It will run through October.
The opening of the exhibit was just of several star-studded events over the first full weekend in July to honour the designer: Rome probably hadn’t seen such a bright red carpet in decades.
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Last Friday, after unveiling the exhibit, Valentino hosted a gala evening in a temple in the Roman Forum, for 500 guests including former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Acrobats wearing Valentino gowns danced above the ruins, as lighting of different colours transformed the Colosseum, symbol of Imperial Rome.
On Saturday, Valentino offered a new winter couture wardrobe of 61 outfits to an audience gathered in a former medieval convent near the Vatican. It was his first show in 17 years in the city; since the early 1990s Valentino has spent his fashion time between Paris and Milan.
Saturday night saw a thousand guests — many of the ladies in Valentino’s best — including Elle MacPherson, Uma Thurman, Claudia Schiffer, Anne Hathaway and Sarah Jessica Parker.
“I love you, all of you very much,” an emotional Valentino said in his toast.