Odd Saint: Valentino


My source is Valentino; The Last Emperor, a recent documentary (Netflix Wonder) about the year leading to the great designer’s retirement.  It is a great movie because it lets us peep into the lives of the very rich, and the very creative.  There is also a strong subtext about the changing tides of fashion: now mostly corporate and focusing on the profits of belt buckles and perfumes instead of couture, which is now only the brand maker, and not the bread or the circus.

Some highlights:

  • “An evening gown that shows a woman’s ankles as she walks is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen!” –Valentino
  • His crew of amazing seamstresses put Project Runway folk to shame. Everything is handmade. They had a sewing machine once, but it just sat in the corner.
  • “How was I?” Valentino asks after an interview.  “You were great,” says his partner, Giancarlo Giametti.  “Really? Be honest.” “Well, you are a little too tan.” “Oh.” “A little less would do.”
  • The idea that as the the older generation of designers leave, an entire art form leaves with them.  They came up in the 50’s, learning from those who started in the 20’s.  There is a scene near the end where Karl Lagerfield sincerely asks him to stay on for a while longer, and it sounds like a heartfelt, “don’t leave me here with them! They are not us!”
  • “Such restraint! Such exuberance!”–Andre Leon Talley, and he’s right.  He specifically mentions the pink coat of the finale– –there is a beautiful scene where the model turns and coat swishes out, catching the air.  It is breathtaking, you see the quality of the fabric and the perfect form of the piece.  Valentino mentions early on that it was the old glamor, the Ziegfield girls and Berkeley musicals, that captured him as a kid.  I am a sucker for anybody who can articulate their delights and, by their own hand, distill the specific charm.