Mr. Valentino Remembers Diana Vreeland

Vreeland and Valentino.
Vreeland and Valentino.

There’s a new theme every day on It’s Vintage. Read more articles on today’s topic: The Fashion Editor.

When Diana Vreeland championed a designer, she did so wholeheartedly. And when she encountered a young Valentino Garavani, she took him under her wing immediately. The two shared more than their love of red and a taste for the finer things in life; here, Valentino recalls their decades-spanning friendship, back in the era when fashion editors wielded absolute power.

When you first met Mrs. Vreeland in 1964, she said, “Even at birth, genius always stands out. I see genius in you. Good luck.” What else did she say to you during that first encounter? What was your initial impression of her?
You know, my English was bad. My impression was to sit in front of this goddess, I was so overwhelmed that I was silent. But she did not need to say more … what else could I ask?

She then ordered a dress from you, and went on to be a loyal client. What is your favorite look you made for her? Has she inspired any of your collections or designs? 
Of course the red charmeuse tunic with big sleeves was her uniform for some time. Every dinner she held in that amazing red room she wore that tunic and black pants. Her Chanel cuff bracelets and Vivier shoes … I did many more dresses for her, a black embroidered tunic long dress for my show at the Met — that was another favorite of hers, and mine as well.

Vreeland and Valentino. Photo: Courtesy Valentino Garavani

How did she help you when you brought the brand to the United States for the first time? 
She did everything, just her calls in the morning, inviting us to the theater or a dinner with Andy [Warhol], to a performance of the Liquid Theatre or just a dinner at Pearl’s with Jackie [Kennedy], and I felt New York was at my feet.

What kind of advice did she give you about design and about life? 
She just endorsed it, not too many suggestions. She was encouraging without imposing ideas. Just her presence was an inspiration. She did not need words.

You are both very strongly associated with the color red — did you ever talk about that together? What did you think of her fiery-red wallpaper and red lipstick and nails? 
Red was there, everywhere around her. I just brought a bit more of it to her life.

Did she ever use one of her famous aphorisms (à la “Pink is the navy blue of India”) with you? 
She called Giancarlo and me “The Boys”; we did not have other names in her circle of friends.

Were you on the receiving end of many of her famous memos? Do any memorable ones stand out?
One in which she said, “Your vodka was not very good last night.” We were in Rome at the Passetto Restaurant, one of her favorites. The vodka was the only one the restaurant had; I did not know other vodkas.

What do you think fashion editors today could learn from Mrs. Vreeland? Do you think there are any fashion editors today who remind you of her? 
They are all great, creative minds. Probably Diana was above commercial, that’s why Vogue fired her.

Mr. Valentino Remembers Diana Vreeland