Valentino is the king of high fashion, ruling over one of the richest fashion empires in the world. For nearly 50 years, he has designed some of the most gorgeous clothing ever to grace the human body. Icons like Jackie Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and Princess Diana made his designs world renowned.
"I've had the thrill of wearing Valentino twice—to the Emmys and my 50th birthday party," Oprah says. "His one-of-a-kind, handmade gowns are truly masterpieces."
Valentino is the subject of a riveting new documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor, which captures the final two years of his remarkable 45-year career. From the painstaking process of creating just one of his handmade gowns to his grand parties to his five pugs, the film captures the beauty in all aspects of the designer's life.
After seeing the documentary's premiere at the 2008 Venice Film Festival, Valentino says he felt like he had been stripped naked. "I had this camera behind my person almost every day for two years, and of course I was working," he says. "And sometimes I was not extremely gentle."
After seeing the film, Oprah says she now sees Valentino's creations as more than just clothing. "I really even more than ever looked at your dresses ... like little sculptures, like pieces of art," she says.
Valentino says he never designed for anyone but himself and the woman wearing his dress. "For me, one of the most important things is proportion," he says. "I look very carefully [at] all the detail of the human body of the woman."
In July 2007, a three-day extravaganza was held in Rome to honor Valentino's 45 years in fashion. Two months later, Valentino retired, but he says he still wakes up with visions of a dress in his mind. "I love to draw. I love to design," he says. "When I am alone in my room, when I am alone somewhere, I still make drawings."
Looking back on his career, Valentino says he can finally admit one thing to himself. "Finally today I can say it—I am proud of what I did," he says. "But I am proud, too, to stop at the right moment, when the room was full of people."
Still, Valentino says he has one more dream to achieve. "I always see ballets in my mind," he says. "I would love to design for the theater."
The Last Emperor doesn't only focus on Valentino's work—it also captures the relationship he has with his partner of 45 years, Giancarlo Giammetti. "To be with Valentino as a friend, as a lover, as an employee is a bit insane," he says. "You need a lot of patience."
During filming, Giancarlo says he eventually forgot the cameras were always around. "Everything started very small at the beginning," he says. "So you get used to having people around you. And at the moment you forget unless they are really intruding some special moment, then there is drama. But it was very surprising for ourselves to see ourselves so out of privacy."
Giancarlo and Valentino are used to living away from the spotlight, and Giancarlo says it was initially surprising to see themselves on film. "Then when we saw that the general public loved it, really discovered ... Valentino can be fun," Giancarlo says. "I think we appreciate ourselves, and we are not ashamed at all to have opened our heart."
What's the best fashion advice Valentino has for women today? Keep it simple. "Not to overdo it," he says. "Try to have a nice pair of shoes, a nice bag, a beautiful blouse, a nice skirt, a nice pair of trousers."