Sunday, June 28, 2009

Valentino: The Last Emperor

One of my favorite TV shows is Project Runway. I watch it religiously and don't think I've missed a single episode in the various seasons it has aired (the DVR is an amazing invention!). What I love about that show is seeing how creative unknowns can take a little bit of fabric, an idea, a sewing machine and make some wonderful (or disastrous) garment in a short amount of time. Watching Valentino: The Last Emperor make clothes is at the opposite end of the economic spectrum but is just as enjoyable and fascinating. It must be the clothes.

Valentino: The Last Emperor is a terrific documentary that follows Valintino as he prepares his 45th collection of clothes. Valentino, known for his celebrity connections, glamour and couture, might be making his last collection as age and the topsy-turvy business world are starting to take its toll on the fashion legend.

Three things jumped out at me while I watched Valentino: the endless array of beautiful clothes, the extravagant lifestyle he lived and the unique relationship between Valentino and his business partner/lover of 45 years Giancarlo Giammetti. The combination of these three things make Valentino very entertaining and it's my favorite documentary I've seen so far in 2009.

The clothes are a no-brainer. We see how Valentino works in his studio with models, aides, Giammetti and his team of seamstresses. The head seamstress is this great, cranky woman who has a fiery temper that she unleashes on others. I wanted to see more of her. These women allow Valentino's ideas (no matter how demanding) to come to fruition--usually done by hand, one stitch at a time.

Valentino, Giammetti and their five pugs live an unbelievably opulent lifestyle. Mansions in Paris, swanky apartments in Rome, yacht to take to Venice, private jets--this is Valentino's daily existence. Valentino talks about how he loves to be surrounded by beauty at all time and that looks like his life. This kind of lifestyle would be exhausting, to live in such a public way, but Valentino relishes it.

The most interesting thing about this documentary is the complex partnership between Valentino and Giammetti. The pair are so joined at the hip that the company could never have existed the way it has without Giammetti. He's been the invisible force behind the scenes since day one. The pair have differences of opinions about clothes or the runway show design--barbs about too much tanning (these two love to tan!) and getting fat occur--but there is never any doubt regarding the pair's attachment to one another. It's sweet and captivating.

If you miss Project Runway when it's of the air, like I always do, seek out Valentino: The Last Emperor. It will give you that dosage of beauty, creativity and glamour while lovingly delivering some glowing behind the scenes world of one of fashion's iconic figures.

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