This will probably be one of my favorite sentences I ever type: I had tea with Mr. Valentino this week.
The legendary designer was in New York promoting his new entertaining book, Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table ($150, assouline.com), which showcases his elaborate collection of china from around the world at his homes around the world. There's also (surprise!) a few recipes too worthy, of course, of the design genius himself.
So to celebrate, he invited a few editors to the New York home of his longtime friend Mr. Giancarlo Giammetti to sip some tea. Up 54 stories to a penthouse above Midtown (what did you expect, a humble shack?), editors were treated to more than a beverage and a side of lemon. Mr. Valentino sat down on a caramel-colored couch for 60 minutes of storytelling, in which he shared intimate details of his favorite dinner parties with guests such Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie O. and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
My favorite story is the one he told of the late Elizabeth Taylor, who had lost her earring at one of his famous gatherings. “She came once for a dinner wearing my clothes and beautiful colored and diamond jewelry,” Mr. Valentino remembered. “She got a call during dinner and went to the phone. When she came back, she started to scream, ‘Where is my earring?!’” He said his A-list guests were all on their hands and knees on the floor looking for it, but “the earring didn’t come out.” Finally, they figured out the truth: she had been on the phone at her hotel with Richard Burton (this was during the time she was with him), “and things weren’t so good,” said Valentino. “She had left the earring on the table of her hotel!” he said, and everyone started laughing.
Fashion industry figure Andre Leon Talley moderated the conversation and chimed in with a special anecdote about the Wests. “Mr. Valentino gave an extraordinary lunch to Kim and Kanye in Paris the day before they got married,” he said, noting that it was a small affair with two tables of ten. “They had never seen such luxury! Kim and Kanye were blown away.” Talley mentioned that Kim had salt cellars in front of her, which she thought was for sugar. “For us it was a treat,” Talley went on. “They arrived with a motorcade of vans and security and family. Mr. Valentino shares his love and might with people he adores. The disease we have is instant satisfaction. No one takes the time to sit down and have these moments. Mr. Valentino does.”
Mr. Valentino ended the storytelling session by emphasizing that his book is not meant to show off. Rather, it’s a way for him to extend an invitation to experience the luxury of his homes to those who otherwise may never step foot in one. “My tables are like one of my dresses,” he said. He wants people to see and enjoy them.
As we left, he invited each guest to take a picture with him. I was the first to jump at the chance (see below for proof). Of course, I couldn’t leave without snapping a few of the gorgeous apartment we were in. After all, Mr. Valentino assured me it’s meant to be seen and shared.