Ready to Wear: Valentino is the undisputed master of the grand gesture

Nobody would ever accuse the great Roman couturier, Valentino Garavani, of understatement. Instead he is the undisputed master of the grand gesture. As The Last Emperor, a film about his life and work, opens, he announces: "I love a beautiful lady. I love a beautiful dog. I love a beautiful piece of furniture. I love beauty. It's not my fault." Don't you just know how he feels.

This documentary follows its mahogany-skinned protagonist on board his private jet – five pugs and official pug-handler/toothbrusher in tow – taking in the last two years of his career in particular. As the proceedings leading up to his impossibly elaborate and even more excessive 45th anniversary celebrations in Rome unfold, there are childish tantrums, high-camp posturing and tears aplenty. Even the Coliseum plays its part – lit up, for the duration, in Valentino red.

Two months after this anniversary, in September 2007, Valentino's retirement was announced. "The market is asking us to change, to do so many different things, and I'm not sure Valentino wants to do that," says Matteo Marzotti – Marzotti Spa acquired Valentino in 2002. It was taken over by investment brand Permira five years later. Cue: Val weeping once more, having no intention of curbing his extravagant lifestyle or putting his name to any bland, money-spinning scent.

"I don't know what's going on," he mutters. "I'm a little confused."

More stridently: "Valentino is above control. Valentino does what he wants. Valentino is Valentino," says Giancarlo Giammetti and, as the former's right-hand man since 1960, he should know.

For all the footage of glittering parties – Michael Caine, Joan Collins, Gwyneth Paltrow and a braying Elizabeth Hurley all have their moment in the sun or, more accurately, driving rain here – this is a poignant study of that relationship.

Just as Valentino continuously hurls insults at his friend, he pleads with Giammetti to take time out to ski with him in Gstaad. Giammetti, likewise, rolls his eyes at such histrionics, tells an agitated Valentino that he is showing his belly and is even "too brown", but cannot conceal his excitement and admiration for his partner throughout. Like an old married couple, they bicker ceaselessly. This, though, is surely one of the fashion world's most intense and enduring love affairs.

The Last Emperor, 7 June, 10pm, BBC4

Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence