Runway fever is in full gear as I report from Paris. What - or who - could get me to fly here for a long weekend? One of the few living fashion legends, Valentino.
My travel companion, interpreter, wing man - and one of NYC's most eligible bachelors - is Bruce Bozzi., Jr. Bruce and I made Mr. Valentino's acquaintance last summer (another blog entirely....) in the spot that's on the tip of jet set tongues worldwide, the Dalmatia Coast of Croatia (book it NOW!)
When Bruce and I received (golden, 5 pound) invitations to Mr. Valentino's Paris Couture show (which he will unveil Monday evening at 8:30 pm) there was little doubt that we could miss this spectacular spectacular.
Mr Valentino and his partner in all things, Giancarlo Giammetti, are one of a kind and out of this world. VaVa (that's what his pals call him) exemplifies glamour not only in his clothes but in the way he lives every moment of his life. He's dressed everyone from Jackie to Julia, practically invented the color red, AND late last year called Paris Hilton something along the lines of "vulgar" in the New Yorker! Viva VaVa!
When Bruce and I visited the Valentino workspace for a preview of the show yesterday, we stepped into a fantasy. Valentino is one of few designers who still are in the Couture business and it's not hard to see why few undertake this painstaking lost art. He employs 50 seamstresses identically outfitted in white lab coats. Many have been with the designer for 40 years and all work by hand for months at a time on individual dresses, each one-of-a-kind works of art that sell for several hundred thousand dollars... a piece.
Up close you can see why. The workspace is dressed as impeccably as it's tenant. The Valentino world is sheltered by 25 foot ceilings trimmed in gold in a series of rooms that seem to have been decorated by Louis XIV and Phillipe Stark. Watching the seamstresses iron the pieces - each takes hours to press - is evocative of watching NASA technicians build a spacecraft, which I did on my way to Croatia. Kidding. The dresses are engulfed in white noise, gleaming like diamonds and bright fresh flowers.
The mood is upbeat but feverish and focused. The designer is coming off of a busy two weeks. At the Golden Globes he put several starlets (including Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johannson) on the Best Dressed list. Last weekend he showed his men's collection in Milan and made headlines as two cowboy lovers walked his runway. Back in Paris models come and go in jeans and Uggs (yes they are still wearing them for comfort and I do not blame them) and are transformed into angelic glamazons.
Once made up, they are tailored, fussed, and fitted by the impeccably outfitted, tanned, and coiffed King himself. A large room awaits with a mock runway, stage lighting, many employees of global origin - men wearing Valentino and women in chic, espresso, and smoke.. With a start, Valentino appears charging down the runway followed by 2 brown pugs calling "Music!"
Runway music blares, the glamazon appears like a strutting sunburst in the most amazing dress you'll ever see, and Valentino and Giammetti sit on the edge of brown chairs studying and directing. They are looking to see how the clothes fit and at the models to make sure they convey glamour, confidence, and some form of happiness (not too overt, this is fashion).
The model struts back and forth for no more than 25 seconds. Some get Valentino's immediate thumbs up. La dolce vita! The room is happy! Others are greeted with a scowl or frown and immediately whisked into the back room for more fittings and I frankly don't know what else. Giammetti tells me that sometimes models do get Valentino's "auf weidersen." He doesn't actually say Heidi's catchphrase, of course -- but perhaps they get his "Ciao!"
20 or 30 minutes later, the whole thing happens again - new model, new dress, new critique. All with care, drive and determination for perfection as the House of Valentino prepares it's next spectacle. More tomorrow!