Valentino steps out of retirement for first time in four years to design extraordinary costumes for the New York City Ballet
15:33 GMT, 20 September 2012
When dancers of the New York City Ballet grace the stage at Lincoln Center for this year's fall gala Thursday night, they'll be wearing extraordinary costumes by Valentino – and not many people can say that these days.
Valentino – really Valentino Garavani, but his name stands on its own and usually in boldface – retired as one of fashion's most celebrated designers nearly four years ago, leaving the design house he founded in 1960.
But, he says, retirement wasn't ever going to be spent enjoying the views from his half-dozen homes around the world.
Couture costumes: Dancers of the New York City Ballet will grace the stage at Lincoln Center for this year's fall gala wearing costumes by Valentino
His desire to put pencil to paper and sketch artful things never diminished, he says, but churning out collection after collection did.
'I stopped because in the “fashion world,” I had done almost everything, and fashion was taking a direction I didn't like,' Valentino, now 80, said.
'This is a new life for me, and it's been a very beautiful experience.'
For the fall gala, he has created 16 original designs for a ballet set to selections from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin and for pieces set to music by Duke Ellington, Fred Astaire, Max Richter and Dinah Washington.
There also will be a tribute of sorts to
Valentino: The ballet will perform Rubies, from George Balanchine's
Jewels, set to Igor Stravinsky's Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra. A
bold ruby hue is known as Valentino red, a colour the designer made his
signature over the years.
'This is a new life for me, and it's been a very beautiful experience'
Valentino says he's a great fan of the ballet, and he has found working with the lovely music and eager dancers to be inspiring. It also helped that costumers were available to make everything perfect, just like it should be for what is essentially haute couture, he adds with a smile.
'I am doing this with great pleasure,' he added.
For all his grandeur and fame,
Valentino appeared quite comfortable in a sparse ballet practice room
scattered with a few instruments.
says NYCB Ballet Master-in-Chief Peter Martins, who is a friend, seemed
a little surprised at the minute level of detail that is required, and
at the number of changes so close to the show.
In one photo, taken my New York City Ballet photographer Paul Kolnick, Valentino is seen pinning last minute design changes the just days before the gala opens.
Finishing touches: Valentino said his desire to put pencil to paper and sketch artful things never diminished, but churning out collection after collection did
'It is the first time Martins has seen choreography done around a dress and not vice versa', Valentino said with a smile.
Valentino designed costumes for the Vienna Ballet in 2009, and he would like to do a large-scale, ornate production, perhaps for the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia.
He, along with partner Giancarlo Giammetti, spent most of the last two weeks at Manhattan's Lincoln Center, which is not only the home of the NYCB but also is the hub of New York Fashion Week, where twice a year designers preview their looks for the coming season.
He attended the runway show of his friend Diane von Furstenberg, but doesn't miss “fashion.”
'I have nothing to regret in my
career, and I love my colleagues and peers, but I don't pay attention to
“fashion” anymore,” he explained. 'I have no nostalgia.'
For those who do miss his typically feminine, glamorous fashion looks, there are several opportunities to see his work.
On the horizon: Valentino, 80 said he would like to do a large-scale, ornate production, perhaps for the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia
Somerset House in London plans Valentino: Master of Couture as a major exhibit, with 130 gowns from the wardrobes of Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Gwyneth Paltrow. It will open at the end of November and run through March.
Last year marked the launch of the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum, a downloadable app with real-time, 3-D views of hundreds of his dresses and even more of his sketches, ads, photos and videos.
Mr Giammetti, the business-focused, big-picture half of the duo, headed up this project since Valentino is the first to say he's not an aficionado of high-tech gadgets.
'I am the worst thing for anything mechanical or on the computer. Last evening, something was wrong with the TV,' he recalled. 'I had to turn it off because I didn't know what else to do.'
He has moved on, Valentino insists, not only to costumes, but also to his interests in decorating, architecture and restoration of buildings, as well as cooking.
His French chateau is featured in the October issue of Architectural Digest, and he has been asked to write a cookbook, which he's considering.
'It's not terribly far away from what I do,' he says. 'I love food, so maybe there will be a book of recipes.'
And he's keeping other options open. 'People know I'm available, and if I think a project is sensational, then I'll do it,' he said.