In Piazza Mignanelli – a stone’s throw from the Spanish steps – one sees an old palazzo and a large staircase where models are being photographed. Valentino is very busy. It is June 2004 and there’s a buzz in the air. Valentino has given interviews to American television and Italian television. His models have been photographed for a Spanish magazine. He’s smiling and elegant in a pinstriped suit, a blue shirt, a regimental tie, and brown suede shoes. He lets me into a large room. There are modern paintings on the walls and beautiful objects on two large tables with a desk in the middle. Valentino is always smiling.
How are things going?
Well. It’s a happy moment for work. I’m quite pleased. But just like any sensitive human being, I am upset about what is going on in the world.
In the sense that the world is traumatised. Each of us is quivering, fearful of something. And this naturally influences our moods and our lives.
Are you talking about Iraq?
About everything. It’s a really unpleasant time. I feel like we live with angst, and this makes us a bit less strong, to tell the truth.
One wouldn’t say that looking at your creations.
Yes, yes. But there’s worry in our minds that stops us from being serene.
What about work?
No. Work is certainly going forward. The show must go on.
But does fashion seem too frivolous today considering the world we live in?
It is not a question of fashion or frivolity, but I have to be honest. These periods also have some influence on business. Fortunately, my boutiques keep selling, but people are scared and, in a certain sense, they have less desire to spend money.
Does that make you change the style of your clothing?
No. Absolutely not. On the contrary, those things that are dreams like art, cinema, and fashion, have to do their best to keep distracting and distancing us from what is happening.
Do you have new ideas in mind right now?
Always women, glamorous women with great appeal. But to tell you the truth, I don’t willingly talk about my future projects because they are perhaps still in the embryonic stage. Of course there will be many new details, and a Valentino with never-before-seen creations in the Paris fashion shows.
In your opinion, is that era of great models over?
No. They’ve changed. Actually, the greatest one of all may be a Brazilian model named Giselle. And then there are stars from Russia. Gorgeous women. Dozens of top models come from the Eastern countries, and it’s amazing because they are all girls who are between sixteen and twenty. Therefore they are really young but they are prepared because they’ve studied younger than others have.
Why have you chosen to spend so much time in London over the years?
First and foremost because I have a house there. Then it’s a city that has given me a lot of satisfaction, and it’s a very masculine city. And if I have to be honest, I really appreciate the extraordinary traditions of London and the English.
You really like traditions, don’t you?
Yes, I like them. Just as I’ve always liked those families from back in the old days with their rigour and severity. In Italy we lack this a bit. I have to say that we Italians are fantastic. We’ve always been fantastic, and I’ve always said that. But lately I see people around me who aren’t happy. I believe they are a bit dissatisfied.
What is Valentino like?
Well, Valentino always tries to be happy. My upbringing and my way of seeing things require me to be this way. Naturally I have my ups and downs, but I’ve got a strong character, and I can change my attitude depending on the day or time of day.
Do you always work a lot?
Yes. I really like to design. I usually start late, around 11:30 a.m. and then I go until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. I have to create ten collections per year and, believe me, it’s a big commitment.
Do you design every day?
Yes, yes. I design, I watch fittings, I look at fabrics, and I see people.
Do you really still do fittings?
No. Since the existence of prêt-à-porter, I no longer do fittings except in rare cases for some actors, actresses, friends, or even some young girls whom I love to dress as brides.
Do you need a lot of imagination to do this work?
Yes. You need imagination but, above all, you need a lot of time.
And do you have enough?
Well, I need to find the time.
Are you still able to see friends?
Yes. Absolutely. I have to leave room for my private life. I have had and still have many friends – extraordinary people. I need them to be able to continue and go forward.
June 6th, 2004.