The Somerset House in London will be the host this fall to a retrospective of the fashions of the past 50 years of work by the Italian designer Valentino Garavani. The show will be titled “Valentino: Master of Couture” and will feature hand-crafted gowns over 130 in number that have been worn by such well-renowned women as Sophia Loren, Grace Kelly, Julia Roberts and Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Highlights of the exhibition will be the pearl-encrusted ivory silk wedding gown that Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece wore in 1995 and the wedding dress that Jackie Kennedy wore to marry Aristotle Onassis in 1968. These garments were made by the finest fashion specialists and dressmakers with painstaking care and have never been previously displayed in the United Kingdom.
In addition to a 60-metre catwalk that will be installed in Somerset House in London, there will be red-carpet looks, such as the black dress that Julia Roberts wore for the Oscars in 2001, pieces from the catwalks, one-off commissions, and mementoes and photography from the personal archives of the designer. The clothes will be displayed in groups according to various themes such as the trademark red of Valentino. There will also be films showing Valentino working in his studio.
Valentino and his designs became popular in the 1960s when his gowns were worn by such prominent women as Audrey Hepburn, Princess Margaret and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Some may have considered them flamboyant but the fashion industry always found them elegant. In addition, Valentino created many of his designs in a shade of scarlet that came to be known as Valentino red.
Valentino continued to work closely with his life partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, and became a friend of socialites, film stars and princesses. In 2008 after he staged his last collection, Valentino sold his company to an Italian conglomerate for £195 million and since then has been in the hands of Pierpaolo Picciolo and Maria Grazia Chiuri. They have worked closely with Valentino during this time and the label has seen a revival in the fashion industry. Their collection has received critical acclaim, appealing to a younger generation of women that have included such celebrities as Jennifer Anniston and Rachel Weisz and Alexa Chung and Carey Mulligan. Valentino officially retired in 2007 at the age of 75 and has not designed for Somerset House since then.
Somerset House became the primary site for London fashion week in 2009 and has hosted a variety of exhibitions which have been very innovative such as those that have celebrated the avant garde label designs of Maison Martin Margiela and the style magazine of Dazed & Confused. Gywn Miles, the director of Somerset House, has said that she is very proud to have Valentino as part of the establishment and to be able to show off his designs in such a unique and spectacular way.
Valentino’s career has been celebrated in other venues that have included a documentary film entitled “Valentino: The Last Emperor” and a special exhibition in Rome.