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Juan Carlos Hernández
A story of friendship, a retrospective, and a look at haute couture as business: we watch Valentino Garavani (1932- ) and partner Giancarlo Giammetti from preparation for the 2006 Spring/Summer Collection in Paris to a July 2007 retrospective of Valentino's 45-year career, which included dressing Jacqueline Kennedy. The film documents a year of work, shows, business changes, and decisions. We follow a creation from sketch to runway: he's always in pursuit of beauty. We're in Paris, Rome, and Venice. He receives the French Legion of Honor medal; his acceptance speech brings tears. Reporters ask when he'll retire. Is the Roman retrospective his career's finale? Cue Puccini. Written by
As told to Elvis Mitchell on KCRW's The Treatment (May 6, 2009), Director Matt Tyrnauer recounted that the film almost never made it to a commercial release. Both Giancarlo and Valentino hated the film on first viewing during a private screening in London and "were completely in shock". Although Tyrnauer had final cut, it took him over five months of negotiations before finally showing the film at the Venice film festival. At Venice the entire audience stood and gave a standing ovation to Valentino after the screening and Valentino apparently now loves the film. See more »
In the closing credits, the archival footage from ZIEGFELD GIRL is credited as a "Warner Brothers" movie. It was an MGM movie but is released on home video by Warner Home Video. See more »
Well, we don't want to have nasty rails do we?
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The main film was a fascinating glimpse into the world of the ultra rich Europeans, who live in a manner that the rest of us cannot even imagine. Valentino is the last of the Haute Couture designers and he was determined to go out with a bang, even if his world had been taken over by the acquisition and merger corporations and hedge funds.
Although I could never afford a Valentino dress, nor do I think I would ever want to spend that kind of money, but to have them there at all is the stuff dreams are made of. Dainty pleated bias cut and filmy swirls of color, hand sewn by expert seamstresses, which say to the rest of us that the wearer doesn't have to ask the price. As we learn, there is little money in the high fashion collections, they are to advertise the name. The suits want to market the small more affordable stuff, perfume, belts, scarves, purses, which carry the company name, which is what they have paid for. As we see, they will sell the company off within days or weeks if they can turn a profit - forget about promises made, they don't go along with the sale. The expensive exquisitely hand sewn Italian and French craftsmanship will be replaced by mass production, probably in China. They have the name, that is all that matters. Someone notes that when Valentino and the last great couturiers began in the 50's and 60's, they were were taught by the designers of the 20s, and that cannot happen today.
The best part of the DVD for me was the special features, one of which showed Valentino's spectacular farewell party and his last collection. A party held within view of the Coliseum illuminated with Valentino red lighting, and a fireworks display over Rome! Throughout Valentino walked imperiously, left hand in his pocket, lips pursed ready for the cheek bumping mwah, mwah, greeting for both men and women and his palm downward wave. At one of his farewell parties, the entire workforce was invited and were given gifts. We never got to see what the gifts consisted of.
Another special feature, which for me could have been the main film, was a view of the army of staff who maintain Valentino's residences, a French Château where the mile long(?) brick drive runs between dead straight rows of identical trees and brown patches of grass are sprayed green, a ski chalet in Gstadt, apartments in New York and Milan, all overseen by an Irish major domo, Michael Kelly, who seems to do everything from covering the furniture with dust cloths, cleaning the
pugs' teeth, walking the pugs, winding the clocks, setting tables, supervising the kitchen, meeting the celebrity guests with umbrellas in a rainstorm and acting as a walking Rolodex and desk calendar for Valentino. As the guest arrive at the gate, the staff inform Mr. Kelly on the walkie talkie, so that Mr. V. can greet them at the door by name, in case he has forgotten a Duchess or confused Elton John with Joan Collins. The clockwork precision and organization which goes into maintaining these homes reminded me of the films about the Royal Family. We learned that they have identical table settings in each home, the maid preparing Mr. Valentino's room in Gstadt gets a birthday present and a cheek bump from Mr. V., Had he been prompted by Mr. Kelly and who had really chosen the white blouse she received?
Mr. Kelly goes along on the luxurious private jet, with a chef and the perfectly matched pugs, who get their own seats. We see him shopping in New York for food and flowers, polishing spots from mirrors while giving a last minute inspection in the Château, and dealing with a flooded carpet in the tented outdoor dining room as the rain teemed down on the day of the party - all the time fluently switching from English to French. How does one get a job like that? Where did he get his start? If only the special feature had been as long as the main feature. I enjoyed seeing how the other fraction of one percent lived.
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