Fashion: Valentino, the man viewed by many as the greatest creator of evening wear of his time and the designer with the plushest lifestyle ever, staged his last fashion show in Paris Wednesday before a glittering array of Hollywood stars, mega designers, grand dames, Old and New Money and every fashion editor of note on the planet.
Valentino managed not to cry as he took his final walk down the runway of a custom made white tent in the garden of the Rodin Museum. Not so his audience, which gave him a five-minute, tear-stained standing ovation after presenting his spring 2008 collection, bringing to a close a 45-year career.
With Uma Thurman and Lucy Liu sitting either side of Valentino's longtime partner Giancarlo Giammetti, the couturier reminded us why one of his nicknames was Le Chic, by sending out 74 looks that captured his unique sense of opulent elegance.
Made largely in black and white, the collection starred Sir Val's beautifully crisp suits, with collars and pockets edged in crystal, ravishingly elegant cocktails in silk twill with flowers embroidered Art Nouveaux style and a fantastic black va va vroom chiffon dress with organza fringes worn by Russian uber model Natalia Vodianova.
Intermingled through the collection were some exquisite black and white ladies who lunch dresses that cried out for a Michelin Three Star restaurant.
For evening, Val varied his pitch from plum line screen goddess columns in pinks, lilacs and yellows, a couple of beautifully over the top Southern Belle flowery gowns with hundreds of ruffles and a stunning final look, a white silk charmeuse column that everyone will want to own, worn by Vodianova.
In a classy gesture, Valentino is giving the Russian supe his last creation so she can auction it for her charity to build playgrounds for kids in provincial Russian cities.
"I'm not sad at all really. I know people expect me to be. One knew this moment would come, but since it was announced I have been touched, and comforted, by the expressions of generosity, kindness, consideration and love from so many people I know," Valentino told FWD, in a tiny, screened off area backstage as several score of TV crews fought for footage.
His retirement comes seven months after private equity Permira won a fraught takeover battle for control of the Valentino Fashion Group (VFG), that includes Valentino and Hugo Boss, in a deal that valued the house of Valentino at $380 million.
The acquisition marked the third change of owners for Valentino since he and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti sold the label back in 1998. Probably no one in fashion lived as well as Valentino, who spent $12 million last July on a celebratory weekend in Rome.
"His style was not at all like mine. But I have always greatly respected him, for his taste and elegance, for being who he is" said Miuccia Prada, one of a half dozen designers at the show, including Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, Patrick Cox, Christian Louboutin, Philip Treacy and Emanuel Ungaro.
"Valentino? In a word? Well, that must be unique. They won't make another one like him," mused Ungaro, accompanied to the finale by his Italian wife Laura.
Also sitting front row were Claudia Schiffer, in odd white pancake makeup, Yves Saint Laurent muse Betty Catroux, a slew of business potentates' wives, including a trio of relatives of Russian billionaire and Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich, and Valentino's successor, Alessandra Facchinetti, who will present the first post Val ready-to-wear collection in Paris in five weeks time.
The media frenzy was so intense, a crew from Spanish television chased Valentino's departing car down the rue de Varenne for a mini interview. Ever the gentleman, Valentino accorded them 45 seconds of quotes, incongruously from the front of his Renault Espace, before the lights changed and he speed off to a private dinner with old friends in his famously sumptuous Chateau de Wideville near Versailles.
Though smiling to the end, it was an ultimately poignant and sad moment one Marisa Berenson defined, as "a real end of an era."
There were always be couturiers, despite what the title of the new documentary on Valentino would claim - "The Last Couturier." Try telling that to Karl Lagerfeld or Christian Lacroix.
But somehow, like the line in Don McLean's song "American Pie" -- "Something touched me deep inside, the day the music died" -- something passed away in Paris today. The day la mode died.
By Godfrey Deeny
Courtesy Fashion Wire Daily