Where did women in need of little red dresses look before 1962? That’s when Valentino Garavani made his international fashion debut. The show, which took place in Florence, was an instant sensation, and women have dreamt of wearing one of the fashion house’s storied gowns ever since.
The house, now under the leadership of Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pier Paolo Piccioli, will celebrate its 50th birthday this year with a major exhibition at Somerset House. Garavani is an old hand at exhibitions—he took over Rome’s Ara Pacis for his 45th anniversary in 2007, and launched the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum in late 2011. That legacy-building digital platform incorporates an archive of important designs, with video content and star style imagery.
Far be it from Garavani to take satisfaction in mere nostalgia. He has continued his design work away from his namesake brand. Most recently, he designed costumes for the New York City Ballet’s opening gala and created megafan Anne Hathaway’s wedding gown.
‘I am proud to have been myself my entire career, never listening to all the input, suggestions, critics,’ he told WWD for a special report on the half-century. ‘It’s not true that you cannot just evolve and not revolutionize all the time.’
Oh, and one more thing: don’t hate him because he’s glamorous. ‘I will continue to be criticized for making overly glamorous fashion,’ Garavani said in the ‘70s. ‘This very criticism gives me the validity of being called a chic designer. I prefer to remain in this domain.’ Good—we like him right there.