Valentino: The Museum

The King of the Red Carpet Unveils the Valentino Garavani Archives in Paris

At Valentino Garavani’s final couture show in February 2008, there were tears in the audience, which included Alber Elbaz, Miuccia Prada and Mick Jagger. The show testified to the designer’s nearly half century of dedication to glamour and elegance. There were matching suits harking back to an era when ladies who lunched did so in a specifically tailored outfit, flowing columns of satin, tiers of embroidered chiffon and brilliantly colored flowers splashed over almost everything. As the finale, a horde of models walked out in the quintessential Valentino garment: a scarlet, one-shouldered dress, simple in shape but expertly draped to provide the perfect red carpet silhouette. Since this dazzling swan song, Valentino has been much missed, though hardly out of the spotlight—he loves a party too much to bow out quietly, evidenced by his $10 million, weekend-long Roman blow-out for his 45th anniversary in 2007. He starred in Valentino: The Last Emperor (2009), a documentary about his life and relationship with lifelong partner Giancarlo Giammetti. This year, while jetting between his various residences in Rome, New York, London and cruising aboard his 152-foot yacht TM Blue 1 (a retinue of bodyguards and pugs in tow), he has set up a permanent home for his astounding collection of sketches, photographs, films, a rotating selection of dresses and other material relating to his work at his 17th-century chateau in Paris, the Domaine du Wildville. The doors were flung open for a sneak peek at a typically star-studded event last week, with guests including Marc Jacobs, Natalia Vodianova and Elizabeth Hurley. Aimed at fashion students, the exhibit incorporates more than 10,000 sketches, as well as iPads that show Valentino’s draftsman skills in real time and a host of imagery drawn from magazine editorials and press articles from the past four decades. The Valentino Garavani Archives are set to open to the public, by appointment only, in September.

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