The fashion world bid farewell this week to Italian designer Valentino, the king of the red carpet, who showed his final collection on Wednesday in Paris.
A perfectionist with an unparalleled sense of fit and fabric, the 75-year-old is bowing out on a high after almost five decades of dressing Hollywood stars from Elizabeth Taylor to Gwyneth Paltrow.
Valentino celebrated his 45 years in business last July with three days of parties in Rome, which featured the memorable sight of dancers suspended in the night sky above the Colosseum.
“It was a moment that will be impossible to repeat. And so, at this time, I have decided that is the perfect moment to say adieu to the world of fashion,” the designer said in a September statement announcing his retirement.
His spring-summer haute couture collection on Wednesday capped three days of presentations by leading houses like Chanel, Christian Dior and Giorgio Armani, who produce made-to-measure clothes for the world’s wealthiest women.
“Val’s Gals,” as his clients are known, will miss the fashion maestro who kept them looking flawless from lunch to charity gala.
Valentino is well placed to understand their needs. With homes including a chateau near Paris, a 46-metre yacht and an art collection including works by Picasso and Miro, he shares their jet-setting lifestyle.
He recognized early on the value of celebrity endorsements, which now form the backbone of the industry — Valentino famously designed the dress that Jackie Kennedy wore for her 1968 wedding to shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.
“He was really one of the first to have the collaboration between designer and celebrity,” said George Simonton, professor of fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.
“You definitely see that he puts a woman on a pedestal. He absolutely adores women, he loves glamour and he loves beauty and that’s his whole life,” he said. “There’s not anyone like him that’s still going to be on the scene.”
Ironically, Valentino’s swansong collection could be deprived of its traditional airing on the most prestigious night of the year: the Academy Awards.
A writers’ strike, now entering its 12th week, has already forced the cancellation of the Golden Globe awards and could lead to the Oscar ceremony — scheduled for Feb. 24 — being scrapped for the first time in its 80-year history.