JULY 6 2007 20:02h
Rome rolled out the red carpet to welcome back Valentino Garavani, decking out a historic museum with his sweeping gowns.
Rome rolled out the red carpet to welcome back Valentino Garavani, decking out a historic museum with his sweeping gowns and restoring an ancient temple by the Colosseum to host festivities celebrating the Italian designer.
While other top fashion names unveiled their latest collections in Paris this week, Valentino is marking his 45th year as a designer with a catwalk show and decadent galas in the city where he opened his first atelier in the 1960s.
"I thought it was time to come back," the designer, who has not presented a show in Rome for 17 years, said at a news conference on Friday to kick off the three-day festivities.
Eager to reassert itself on the fashion map where it once dominated before losing its place to Milan, Rome has rushed to offer Valentino some of its landmark venues as the backdrop for his events.
With the help of funds donated by the designer, Rome restored the ancient Temple of Venus built by Emperor Hadrian, which hosts Friday's inaugural banquet with the added attraction of luminous columns designed by Dante Ferretti hoisted on top.
Bald mannequins draped with Valentino's trademark evening gowns lined Rome's Ara Pacis museum as part of an exhibit on the designer's works that opened on Friday with A-list stars such as Uma Thurman and Sarah Jessica Parker in attendance.
"What is wonderful for women is that he is committed to making us look better than ever, he's a warrior for women," actress Anne Hathaway told reporters on the red carpet entrance to the exhibit swarming with photographers and camera crews.
The retrospective also showed off old pencil sketches and about 300 dresses made by the designer, including sequined and ruffled evening gowns worn by stars like Audrey Hepburn that first catapulted the designer to fame several decades ago.
"I love women and I love to make women look wonderful," Valentino said, adding that over the years he hated the grunge look because it was "outrageous" while the minimalism phase was an "offence" because it made women look like "little nuns."
On Saturday, the stylist will unveil his fall collection in a former church complex by the Vatican before hosting another lavish gala in the lush gardens of Villa Borghese. The festivities end on Sunday with the launch of a new perfume.
Though it was once the undisputed capital of la dolce vita, Rome is no longer where Italy's top designers unveil their collections, and the city has been quick to capitalise on Valentino's big name status.
The designer was allowed to pick the city's monuments he fancied as settings for his parties and a list of Italian dignitaries have paid tribute to his role in putting Italy at the top of global fashion.
Valentino, whose group last month landed in the hands of private equity fund Permira, shrugged off rumours of impending retirement.
"I'm a disaster in everything else, but dress designing I can do," he said.