For more than five decades, the house of Valentino has been a beacon of glamour, bathing its best-dressed clientele in the most scintillating of lights. From the start, its founder, Valentino Garavani, has worked by one simple precept: “I know what women want,” he once said. “They want to be beautiful.”
Growing up in provincial Voghera, Italy, young Garavani loved going to the movies. One film in particular, Ziegfeld Girl, left him with a lust for the beautiful life. “For me, a young guy of 13, to see this sort of beauty—I think from that moment I decided I wanted to create clothes for ladies.”
Garavani studied in Paris, after which he honed his skills in the salons of Jean Dessès and Guy Laroche. In late 1959, he returned to Italy and opened the doors of his own lavishly appointed atelier and began charming Rome’s elite. His dresses were clean and modern yet unabashedly feminine—with bows, flowers, ruffles, lace, embroideries—always in the finest fabrics, always molto elegante. In his first collection, there appeared what would become his signature: a dress the color of poppies, later known as Valentino red.