An Interview with Valentino Garavani

During his 45-year career, haute couturier Valentino Garavani dressed everyone from Hollywood leading ladies (Gwyneth, Julia) to beau monde beauties (Jackie, Liz) to international royalty (Marie Chantal, Diana). All wore his frothy evening confections, many in his signature red. Two years prior to the designer’s 2007 retirement, Vanity Fair scribe Matt Tyrnauer began filming Valentino and his longtime business partner, Giancarlo Giammetti. Valentino: The Last Emperor, playing in theaters this spring, shows the duo as they fashionably dash from fittings in Paris to dinner parties in their Versailles château, but it also captures the two at more poignant moments—particularly during the events surrounding Valentino’s 45th-anniversary celebration just two months before he stepped down. Despite all that the film reveals, however, we still had a few questions.

What won’t you travel without?

My six pugs.

How do you keep the dogs comfortable when they travel?

No food around. They get very excited by food.

Favorite piece of art in your private collection?

Il Bronzino’s painting of Eleonora di Toledo.

Artwork you wish to own?

The 1976 triptych by Francis Bacon that was purchased by a Russian oligarch for $86.3 million last year at Sotheby’s.

Favorite silver-screen siren?

Ava Gardner.

Choice tables in New York and Rome?

In Manhattan, the Waverly Inn for the fun atmosphere. In Rome, Al Moro, where the pasta carbonara is the thing to order.

Favorite hotel? What room do you request?

The Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro. The suites on the sixth floor have a private swimming pool and butler service.

Where do you go for après-ski in Gstaad?

The Gstaad Palace. Everyone goes there from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Cocktail of choice?

I never drink cocktails. Red or white wine is best.

Who makes your suits?

Caraceni in Rome.

And your shoes?


Favorite scented candle?

Jo Malone.

What hostess gift do you like to give?

I send flowers, but the day after. In Europe we don’t bring wine or gifts.

Who’s your florist?

Rob Van Helden in London.

And your favorite flower?

Amaryllises, orchids, and roses in a very light tea color.

Last book read?

Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.

BlackBerry or iPhone?

I prefer a DVD player and a good movie.

Do you surf the Web?

I am incapable of sending an e-mail.

What watch do you wear?

Watches are my passion. I have too many. Among my favorites are Audemars Piguet and Cartier.

Necessary extravagance?

No extravagance is necessary. And most are tacky.