Valentino: The Last Emperor is a documentary film about the life of Valentino Garavani. It was produced and directed by Matt Tyrnauer, Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine. With 45 years in the fashion business the movie opens at a Valentino show in 2007 to Bette Davis Eyes by Kim Carnes as the soundtrack. “I know what women want,” states the maestro “they want to be beautiful.” We learn that there is rumour Valentino is to retire at 77. There are tears, whether fake or not, and then flash back a year to five pugs in a private plane.
Designing the Paris Summer 2006 collection a painfully thin model is used as a dressmaker’s dummy and we are told, by Valentino’s partner, Giancarlo Giametti and “honorary chairman” that everything is stitched by hand. They bought a sewing machine once, but they never used it. “When I was young, I was dreaming of movie stars.” Says Valentino. “Me as a boy dreaming of movie stars, I realised I wanted to make clothes for ladies.”
Giancarlo wants to tell the story of how they met. He is already penned as a character living in the shadow of a great man. He has to bite his lip. And Valentino tells him he is not interested in telling the story but then we are then told.
We learn that Valentino’s first company went bust and that, whilst only a student, Giancarlo helped him. He went to New York and he did the entire wardrobe for Jackie O, and in 1968 his white collection brought him to the forefront and finally he had his movie stars.
Creating the Paris 2006 dresses we meet the bickering, shouting Italian women who sew everything, including the angry shouting Anonietta work to Valentino’s spec, his majordomo, and Matteo the owner of Valentino, who bought the brand in 2002 after an emotional, and broke, Valentino sold it to HDP in 1998.
There are tantrums, when his design choices are slightly questioned, and a stunning white dress with strips of ruffles material edged with sequins. It is divine. You will know the one I am talking about. This one!
The movie is in two parts. The first tries to follow the circus getting ready for the show, following his testy relationship with Giancarlo as he bullies his way through it all while the second half signals the end of an era of haute couture as personified by Valentino and a handful of others, including the equally imperious Karl Lagerfeld. Valentino is shown strolling hand in hand with Mr. Lagerfeld at Valentino’s July 2007 farewell bash in Rome, two months after which he officially retired. Swallowed up by big business, the great fashion houses of Europe are now mass-market franchises with designer names attached to all manner of clothing and accessories.
A great movie, recommended for the fans of haute couture and the great man himself, Valentino. A+ Highlights? Cleaning a growling pugs teeth in Gstaad, and the reality of it all, “the runway shows, the couture shows don’t make money. It is all the accessories that bring it all in.”