Valentino is one designer who needs no introduction. His iconic gowns are as recognizable as his golden Amalfi tan. Last night, the 82-year-old Italian designer sat down with Fern Mallis at the 92nd Street Y for another round of “Fashion Talks,” where he opened up about everything from his red carpet relationship with Elizabeth Taylor to Jackie O’s famous wedding dress to Aristotle Onassis. As Valentino joked to Fern: “You make me naked tonight!” In case you missed all the zingers, here are the top eight highlights.
On life: “Beauty is very important. I love beauty. It’s always been my religion.”
On opening up to Fern Mallis: “She wants to know all the things! I’m going to tell you which underwear I’m wearing. No, that would be too much.”
On women’s style today: “I’m not so enchanted when I see on the streets women dressed in all black.”
On meeting Elizabeth Taylor: “She was in Rome for one year to shoot Cleopatra. She asked — I don’t know which person, I don’t remember — but she said, ‘You have a new designer that just opened a fashion house called Valentino. I’d love to see his clothes.’ We went one afternoon to a big villa. My mouth was open in front of this beauty. She was unbelievable. She was still Mrs. Fisher. She said to me: ‘I need an evening gown because in one month in Rome we’ll do the opening evening of the film Spartacus with Kirk Douglas. I’ve been invited to this night, and would love to wear an evening gown from you. But I have to tell you, I already have a gown from Dior. If the dress is beautiful, it suits me and I like it, I’m going to wear your dress.’ So I tried to do my best, and she finally wore my dress.”
On being photographed with Elizabeth Taylor for the first time: “The person who was supposed to take care of the publicity [at the premiere of Spartacus in Rome] said, ‘We would love to have Mr. Valentino take a picture with you.’ She said, ‘If he gives me one dress, then yes.’ She was very demanding. Of course, I did.”
On Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress to Aristotle Onassis: “She owned that dress already, and several dresses of this collection. When all the magazines came out and said she married Onassis, Women’s Wear Daily was the first to call and ask if I made the dress. I said, ‘I have no idea. Nobody called me for the dress.’ They were right. The month after the wedding, we sold 30 pieces of the same dress.”
On 80s fashion: “I hated the dress. Ladies would wear shoulders that didn’t belong to their figure. The hair was all…terrible. The shoes were not good. I never liked it. I love the 40s, the 50s and the 60s very much.”
On his friendship with Meryl Streep: “Sometimes she comes to lunch at my house. She’s very simple. She loves to see the cook and ask for the recipe. She’s amazing! I’m a great fan of hers.”
*Valentino’s new book, Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table, is now available for $150.