A Brief History of Valentino

From Jackie O. to Valentino Pink.

History of Valentino

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With nearly six decades at the top of the fashion industry, Valentino remains one of the most recognizable brands in the world. A consistent staple in film and on the red carpet, its become synonymous with high fashion and has been since its early days.

Valentino's namesake is not just a nod to the red dress that's featured in every collection. It's is also the name of its founder, Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani. The brand's simple "V" emblem, featured on the accessories, has become an iconic signature worldwide.

From a red tulle dress to coloring the modern runways in head-to-toe pink, here's everything to know about Valentino.

Designer Valentino Garavani With His Pug

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Who founded Valentino? 

Valentino Garavani was born in 1932 in Lombardy, Italy. He was interested in fashion from a young age, but it wasn't until age 17 that he moved to Paris to study at the ​​Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. From 1957 to 1959, Valentino worked in designer Guy Laroche's atelier until going off on his own. 

In 1960, he partnered with architect Giancarlo Giammetti to start his eponymous line. In an interview with Fern Malis during a live chat for Fashion Icons in 2014, and reported on by Racked, he explained the partnership.

"He asked if he could see the fashion house, and he said, 'What a boring life I have, to be an architect, to go home to study. I would love to come here and do something for the fashion house,'" he said. "He came, and he took care of everything that was not part of the creation. Little by little, we arrived at something quite solid."


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The signature red dress. 

In his first ready-to-wear collection in 1959, Valentino included a dress called the 'Fiesta.' It was a strapless, mid-length dress in a bright red color that would quickly become a signature for the brand, otherwise known as Valentino Red. From then on, every collection featured a red dress. Jennifer Aniston later wore the Fiesta dress from Valentino's debut collection to the premiere for Along Came Polly.

In 1985, Giancarlo Giammetti told Vogue, "Valentino has superstitions that became status symbols. He did red once and now you have red in every collection. Most of our statements came to be because we are romantic; we don't like to throw away things we like or that bring good luck."

Jackie Kennedy-Onassis Wearing a Valentino Wedding Dress

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The Jackie Kennedy-Onassis effect.  

Garavani attributes much of his success to former first lady Jacklyn Kennedy-Onassis. He told Malis that the "Valentino Boom" was directly related to Onassis. The year after her husband President John F. Kennedy's assassination, she wore six haute couture looks by the designer, which she bought upon moving back to New York City. She also wore a wedding dress by Valentino when she married Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis in 1968. 


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Valentino in pop culture. 

His designs aren't the only cultural staple; Valentino himself is also an icon. In 2006, the designer appeared as himself in The Devil Wears Prada. The movie recreated an entire fashion show with the main character Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) sitting front row, and she also goes backstage to greet him. 

In behind-the-scenes interviews, the producers explain how it came to be. "He stood out. Someone was going to take the stand; someone was going to get behind us. And having Valentino do it made us real."

Valentino also discussed his feelings about being part of a cultural sensation. "It was a surprise, but I was happy to do it," he said, "It was a great great honor." 

The Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri era.  

In 2007, Valentino Garavani decided to step down as creative director of his brand, appointing Alessandra Facchinetti to take his spot. After one year, however, Facchinetti was ousted and two young designers, Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri, who took over the spot jointly. The pair had been at Fendi and caught the eye of Garavani.

In 2015, Chiuri told Yahoo why they took on the role. "We arrived at Valentino because we loved the brand," she said. "We were very fascinated by the Valentino story, the culture, the beauty, the elegance."

In 2016, Chiuri announced that she would be leaving Valentino and heading to Dior. Piccioli would remain in his role as the sole creative director, where he still is today. 

Zendaya Wearing Valentino Pink

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The 2020s. 

While Valentino has always been a trending brand, the Fall 2022 collection may have ushered in a new level of viral success. For this collection, the brand produced a large number of head-to-toe hot pink looks, naming the specific, vibrant shade Valentino Pink. The looks have since been everywhere, with celebrities such as Zendaya, Gigi Hadid, Anne Hathaway, Dua Lipa, Vanessa Hudgens, and more wearing the pieces for press appearances.

Valentino has also expanded into the beauty world. While fragrances have been around since 1979, the brand launched its makeup line in 2021.

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