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Valentino: Fifty and fabulous

This month Valentino celebrates its 50th birthday. Jill Geoghegan looks back at its half century of success.

Feminine, flirty and never one to shy away from full on glamour, the iconic label’s signature style has ensured that Valentino has been the go-to for couture creations for five decades.

Donned by everyone from royalty and first ladies to Hollywood’s elite for half a century, as the renowned fashion house turns the big 5-0, the luxury label shows no signs of slowing down.

Headed by its namesake, legendary designer Valentino Garavani, Valentino made its international debut in 1962 and has since developed into one of the best known brands worldwide. Operating in over 70 countries, the high-end maison offers clients luxury products from haute couture, prèt-à-porter and accessories collections, never failing to deliver on decadence and sumptuous design.

Drawing inspiration from the glamour of a by-gone era, intricate detail, luxurious fabrics and delicate finishes have turned the label’s distinctive traits into innovative design that is, quintessentially, Valentino. 

In 2008, when the velvet reins were passed to Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, the new creative directors stayed true to the pioneering vision of their predecessor, ensuring that the elegance and sensuality that have become synonymous with Valentino continued to thrive and flourish as it moved into a new era.

The illustrious fashion house has gone from strength to strength both creatively and financially in recent years.

Valentino Red, the label’s younger diffusion line, now accounts for 20% of the company’s overall volume. And last July Mayhoola for Investments, an investment vehicle backed by a private investor group from Qatar, agreed to acquire Valentino Fashion Group SpA, in a lucrative deal thought to be worth nearly £600 million - far from small change in anyone’s estimation. 

Undoubtedly, the success of Valentino is largely owed to its perma-tanned founder, who is as well-known as the label itself. A regular on the red carpet, the charismatic designer is a darling of silver screen starlets; even making a guest appearance in the 2006 blockbuster hit The Devil wears Prada playing himself, naturally. Following his big screen debut, Valentino struck up a friendship with the movie’s star Anne Hathaway and came out of retirement earlier this year to personally create the actress’s fairy tale wedding gown.

Now the larger than life persona is set to be honoured in an installation at London’s Somerset House. Running from November 29 until March 3, the Valentino: Master of Couture exhibition will celebrate the life and work of the living legend who took crafting couture to an unprecedented level.

Fifty years after its first foray into fashion, Valentino has retained its position at the top of the luxury style tree by embracing the ever evolving nature of the industry while staying true to the brand’s core values.Here’s to fifty more.

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