Less than 12 hours after the Costume Council feted him at a dinner a few blocks away (and that following a screening of a documentary about him), legendary -- and recently retired -- fashion designer Valentino Garavani was back at the lectern, this time at the foot of Via Rodeo in Beverly Hills for the unveiling of a Rodeo Drive Walk of Style plaque in his honor.
The 13th person to receive the honor in the last six years (previous recipients were designers Giorgio Armani, Tom Ford, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gianni and Donatella Versace, James Galanos and Manolo Blahnik, photographers Herb Ritts and Mario Testino, and costume designers Edith Head, James Acheson and Milena Canonero), the gold-colored plaque bearing his name is expected to be installed in the sidewalk somewhere in the 300 block of North Rodeo Drive within the next month.
“I am completely drunk on compliments,” he told the crowd, after being introduced by actress Anne Hathaway. "Today this street is the most important fashion street in the world. It's an honor for me to have this plaque in this beautiful place. My mother always said I was walking in the clouds, now you can say people are walking on me."
In her introduction, Hathaway dressed in Valentino "from head to about the knees" (her words exactly), spoke of how she tended to get nervous every time she was about to meet the designer. "I wanted to be perfect in Valentino for Valentino," she said, noting that by the time she arrived at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for Wednesday night's screening of "Valentino: The Last Emperor" she thought she had it nailed.
"Last night I thought I’d really done it, I thought I was past all that, I was wearing one of his last, most beautiful dresses, a little black bowed number, I was gladly suffering through blistering 5-inch stilettos because they complemented the satin hemline. I was attempting to carry myself with all the elegance and sophistication of someone wearing Valentino, and I thought to myself: ‘At last, I’ve done it.’
"I was totally relaxed, totally at ease, totally confident. And then I went up to say hello to him. He hugged me, kissed me and then ... retied the bow on the front of my dress.
"Though I should have been mortified, I felt loved. Suddenly I wasn’t the girl trying to be perfect in Valentino … I was a Valentino creation.”
Wednesday night at the Montage Hotel, Valentino told the crowd he had enjoyed his visit but was ready to get back to Europe. This morning, after thanking the city of Beverly Hills and Hathaway he seemed to change his tune.
"Who knows, maybe I’ll be here one more day and win another prize," he said with a chuckle.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: Valentino's spring 2009 collection
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Photo: Designer Valentino Garavani and actress Anne Hathaway at the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Awards. Credit: AP / Dan Steinberg