Valentino Garavani was born on May 11, 1932, in the town of Voghera, to the south of Milan. He studied at the prestigious Accademia dell'Arte in Milan followed by the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, as well as the French capital's Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture.
Taking his first job with couturier Jean Dessès in 1950, he moved five years later to the atelier of Guy Laroche. Towards the tail-end of the decade he set up his own couture house with partner Giancarlo Giammetti in Rome. In 1962 he showed a couture collection at the Pitti Palace in Florence for the first time to critical acclaim, a moment regarded as his breakthrough and he soon became the go-to for dressing the stars.
Valentino and Laroche sold the fashion empire they created for $300 million to an Italian company in 1998, although Valentino, whose diffusion line Oliver is named after one of his pugs, retained a five-year consultancy deal. The Italian maestro is primarily a couturier who makes clothes for women, rather than the catwalk spectacles favoured by some younger designers. Jackie Kennedy wore Valentino for her second wedding to Greek tycoon Ari Onassis, and most of America's ladies who lunch are Valentino frock-wearers. Hollywood adored his designs, and perennial 'Best Dressed' listers Kate Capshaw and Rita Wilson, both of whom attended his 40th-anniversary bash in 2000, are big fans.
Valentino's later life
The designer owns homes in Versailles, Rome, Capri, Tuscany, London, Gstaad and New York, as well as a yacht, TM Blue One, on which he regularly played host to a bevy of supermodels. Elle, Claudia, Naomi, Liz et al were all regular guests. In early 2008 an era came to an end when Valentino bade farewell to the fashion scene.