God of style Valentino to make the cut from top job

CELEBRITY and fashion go together like jelly and ice-cream. One can elevate the other from the banal to the near beautiful.

While the eponymous cult of the celebrity is arguably a legacy of the 1980s, the original silver screen star harks back to the 1920s and 1930s when screen beauties were exotic, aloof creatures not the high-speed tragedies epitomised by the likes of Kerry Katona.

Fashion for these latter- day magazine habituées is nothing more than hitting the speed dial to a fashion house and demanding what they believe is rightfully theirs.

In contrast, the great stars of the pre-1980s dressed with an individual flair and an attention to detail, that will be copied for generations. And one man in the fashion world cultivated their adoration like no other.

To Jackie Kennedy, Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn, he was God.

And you only have to look at their back catalogue to begin to realise why the world of fashion is in mourning at the prospect of losing one Valentino Garavani, known to all as Valentino.

His hallmark is elegance, respect for the female form and a deep love of luxury and craftsmanship.

Actress Angelica Huston sums up wearing Valentino: “It’s like getting a great haircut. His clothes might look like a whisper but they’re so carefully thought out and constructed they can hide a myriad of ills. What he does is magic.”

Valentino was born on May 11, 1932 in Voghera, Italy. At the age of 17, he moved to Paris where he studied at the École des Beaux Arts and Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. He first found apprentice jobs with Jean Desses where he used to help Jacqueline de Ribes sketch her dress ideas. Then he joined Jean Desses and Guy Laroche. By 1959, he had returned to Rome, where the ‘Dolce Vita’ era was at its peak, and the following year he set up on Rome’s Bond Street, Via Condotti.

His first show in 1962 was his famous No Colour collection with models and escorts dressed in various shades of white, cream, chalk, sand, ecru and beige.

At this time, psychedelic colours were all the rage and Valentino’s collection astounded everyone with its subtlety and power.

There began an all-white fashion binge which most famously culminated in his designing Jacqueline Kennedy’s dress for her wedding to Aristotle Onassis.

Valentino’s lasting legacy to fashion is his dresses. Mixing obscene luxury with romantic whimsy, they are renowned for their utter perfection.

Last July, he held his 45th anniversary celebrations in Rome. He didn’t make any announcements at this point but everyone was waiting for the nod that he was to bow out.

This week, he confirmed the rumours within days it was announced that Alessandra Facchinetti, a former head of women’s wear at Gucci will take over from the 75-year-old.

Ranked alongside Armani and Lagerfeld, Valentino is seen as the last of the great designers before fashion became a global, highly commercial industry run by accountants and marketing executives.

Facchinetti said she was honoured to be picked to takeover from Valentino.

“Mr Valentino has always been a point of reference for me, an icon for his sense of style and elegance. My admiration and respect for him is endless.

Valentino presented his last ready-to-wear collection in Paris this week and will present a haute couture collection in January.

“It’s the perfect moment to say adieu to the world of fashion,” the designer, whose career kicked off in the 1960s, said in a statement.

“I have been very lucky to be able to do what I have loved all my life.

“I am especially grateful that I have been able to keep my own style over the decades.”

He said his future would be “filled with new interests and challenges”.

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