Over a hundred students filled the auditorium at Parsons Times Square Fashion Center campus on Thursday night, where the school’s dean Simon Collins would host a conversation with Giancarlo Giammetti — founding business partner and former honorary president of Valentino, and Valentino Garavani’s former lover. This was one of many events surrounding a multi-city tour to promote his first book, Private: Giancarlo Giammetti, and Mr. Valentino himself was seated front and center.
Early on, Collins asked about the label’s secret to success. “[Valentino] designs for real women who are not all like Karlie Kloss or Gisele [Bundchen],” Giammetti said, and that his aim was (and is) to design a dress that will look good on both a supermodel and an everyday woman, because that’s who will go out and buy a Valentino. Let’s be real: Karlie and Gisele get the dresses for free. And while these generosities will result in new friendships and members of Giammetti’s “tribe” – which includes Gwyneth Paltrow and Sienna Miller -- he quickly pointed out that they would not pay Valentino’s bills. That was Giammetti’s job.
“A famous Swiss buyer once told me that at the end of the day it’s the cashier who speaks last. It’s not what you read in the paper the day after the show and it’s not the award. You have to sell the clothes.” Valentino never read the reviews of his shows; instead, he would ask Giammetti if the clothes were “right.” To which the only Valentino-approved response was “Yes. No. Good. Bad — never bad! Less-good than the last collection, perhaps.”
Collins spoke with his aspiring-designer students in mind when he asked Giammetti to talk about challenges and mistakes he and his partner made when they first started The House of Valentino over 50 years ago, as well as tough questions about financing a new label – “Find the money!” Giammetti suggested. But he also made sure to keep the focus of the conversation anchored in the present: He brought up the point that Giammetti has mastered the social media app Instagram, with his account @privategg boasting 37K followers. This seems appropriate, considering three full rows of Parsons students clamored to Instagram a photo of Valentino in the flesh when the talk began.
But it’s not the clothing that gets the most “likes” – it’s photos of Valentino with his pugs, lounging in his lap on a private plane or on a yacht. “There are my dogs,” says Giammetti with a laugh, “and then there are his dogs, the pugs. There are six. They are many. Valentino loves them, but unfortunately like a human they get older, so for the moment he just carries two dogs. Just the two and they are with him everywhere.”
The crowd realized that Giammetti had not revealed a single secret as the conversation comes to a close, so Collins requested that he leave the students with something “illuminating.” Giammetti laughs, “In the morning, I wake up and I think, ‘What will I put on Instagram?’ It’s so complicated!”