Valentino Garavani and Natalia Vodianova 2012 c Cathleen Naundorf

Valentino: Master of Couture

A major new exhibition celebrating the life and work of Valentino at Somerset House: 29 November 2012 - 3 March 2013

A major new exhibition celebrating the life and work of Valentino will open at Somerset House this November. “Valentino: Master of Couture” will be a glamorous exhibition focusing exclusively on haute couture created by the legendary Italian designer. With a 50-year career starting in the late 1950s this exhibition will showcase over 130 hand-crafted designs worn by icons such as Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Gwyneth Paltrow. A prophetic designer and creator of exquisite, beautiful clothes, this is Valentino as he has never been seen before.

Featuring dresses from the couture catwalk and red carpet, as well as designs commissioned by private clients, this exhibition brings together a comprehensive collection of couture, much of which has never been seen outside the Valentino atelier. The exhibition will give visitors a rare glimpse behind the closed doors of Valentino’s world, allowing them to experience the thrill of walking the runway and reveal Valentino’s craftsmanship.

“Each of these designs have a beautiful story,” says Valentino. “The atelier crafted each so diligently by hand, taking hours, sometimes days to complete. The details are incredibly intricate, though outside the runway shows and events, the dresses have rarely been seen, so to be able to showcase these designs at Somerset House, where they can be seen in great detail by the public, is very unique.”

Known for his long-standing relationships with the world’s most glamorous women, Valentino has designed for princesses, first ladies and Hollywood icons. As a result, exhibition highlights will include the vintage dress worn by Julia Roberts when she won an Academy Award in 2001, Jackie Onassis’s wedding dress from Valentino’s 1968 White Collection and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece’s pearl-encrusted ivory silk wedding gown, which the New York socialite wore to marry Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece in 1995.

The exhibition design for Valentino: Master of Couture has been created specially for Somerset House by internationally renowned design team Kinmonth Monfreda, long time collaborators of Valentino, and realised in collaboration with Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti. The exhibition has been curated by Alistair O’Neill for Somerset House with Patrick Kinmonth and Antonio Monfreda.

The exhibition promises to be a unique experience for each visitor and will be divided as follows:


The first room delves into the unique world of Valentino featuring previously unseen personal photographs, couture invitations and images of Valentino at work and play from his personal archive in Wideville, France.

The Catwalk

For Valentino: Master of Couture, Somerset House’s Embankment Galleries will be transformed into a glamorous couture catwalk. In a clever reversal of roles each visitor takes the place of the model walking along a sixty-metre runway to view the ‘audience’, all of whom will be dressed in Valentino Couture. Evening gowns, dresses, trouser suits, minis, capes and kaftans, the catwalk will take visitors on a journey through fashion from the 1950s to today. The garments will be grouped by themes rather than chronologically, for example tones of black and white, volume and Valentino red. They will be on open display, so the craftsmanship is clearly visible. The catwalk display will culminate in recent dresses by the current house of Valentino.

The Atelier and les petits mains

Descending the stairs from the catwalk, visitors will see the exquisite wedding dress of Princess Marie-Chantal made with ten different kinds of lace. Beyond this will be a room dedicated to Valentino’s current passion, the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum, which will allow visitors to explore Valentino’s legacy even further through interactive and multi media content.

In the final room, visitors will be able to see behind the scenes at the atelier through a series of specially made films that show in minute detail the artistry of the couture techniques that go into making a Valentino gown. This includes the technique of budellini, which is unique to Valentino. Hundreds of hours of work go into each Couture gown made in the Valentino atelier.

Gwyn Miles, Director of Somerset House said: “We are delighted to welcome Valentino to Somerset House and show off his beautiful designs in such a spectacular way. Somerset House will be the ultimate destination for fashion and glamour this winter. Following on from London Fashion Week, visitors will have the chance to see fashion photographer Tim Walker’s new exhibition Story Teller and Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour as well as Skate at Somerset House – the original and most glamorous open-air ice-rink in London.



Dates:  29 November 2012 – 3 March 2013

Opening Hours: 10am – 6pm Daily. Late night openings on Thursdays until 9pm

Address: Embankment Galleries, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

Admission: £12.50, Concessions £9

Transport: Nearest Underground Stations – Temple, Embankment, Charing Cross

Further Information:

Hashtag: #ValentinoExhibition

Somerset House Facebook:

Somerset House Twitter: @SomersetHouse (

Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum Facebook

Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum Twitter @ValentinoMuseum




Valentino Garavani, often known simply as Valentino, is a legendary fashion designer and master couturier. He founded his eponymous fashion house in Rome in the late 1950s and has since established an illustrious career designing for the world’s most glamorous women, from royalty to Hollywood icons.

From his start designing dresses, Valentino and long-time partner Giancarlo Giammetti built the Valentino brand into an international empire, now one of the most iconic fashion brands in the world, often associated with his signature colour, “Valentino Red”. Throughout his career Valentino has been awarded the highest recognitions and achievements, including Italy’s highest distinction, Cavalier di Gran Croce, and France’s Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, in addition to numerous awards in the fashion industry. Valentino retired from his career in fashion in 2008, though he continues to create and follow his passions.

About Somerset House

Somerset House is a spectacular neo-classical building in the heart of London, sitting between the Strand and the River Thames. Since opening to the public in 2000, Somerset House has produced a distinctive public programme that annually draws over two million visitors to the site, providing a stimulating environment for exploration and relaxation. The varied, year-round programme includes an open air film and concert season and ice rink, as well as temporary exhibitions focusing on contemporary fashion, design, art and architecture, family workshops and free guided tours. In September 2009, Somerset House became the new home of London Fashion Week.



Patrick Kinmonth has worked as an artist in many disciplines, as writer, architect, painter, designer and art director and works internationally as an acclaimed set and costume designer for opera, photography and dance. Patrick has worked as a creative consultant at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Alongside Antonio Monfreda, Patrick designed the exhibition Anglomania (2006) and Valentino in Rome, 45 Years Of Style (2007) at the Ara Pacais in Rome. Patrick also designed Dangerous Liaisons (2004) at the Costume Institute and is currently working on numerous creative projects including directing operas in Geneva and Cologne.

Antonio Monfreda began his creative career in Rome working with the Magazzino d’Arte Contemporanea. In the meantime he worked as a freelance set designer and art director for special events in the fashion world collaborating with the Gucci group, Bulgari, Burberry and Bally and working with photographers such as Mario Testino and magazines from Pop to American Vogue. In 2004, he joined forces with Patrick Kinmonth to found Kinmonth Monfreda. As well as producing critically acclaimed exhibition designs, the team were responsible for the design concept for the Missoni flagship store in Los Angeles. Antonio continues to work extensively in a number of mediums, including fashion photography and film.

Alistair O'Neill is Reader in Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, London. He is the author of 'London- after a fashion' (2007, Reaktion) and has recently contributed to 'Fashion and Art' (2012, Berg) and 'Incomparable: Women of Style, Rose Hartman' (2012, ACC). He is on the Editorial Board of Costume, the journal of the Costume Society of Great Britain and writes for the journals Fashion Theory and Photography and Culture. He contributes to media including The Guardian, The Independent and BBC Radio 4, and lectures at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Britain. He is currently completing 'Photography and Fashion' for Reaktion Books.


For further press enquiries please contact Rebecca Ward for Somerset House on 07977 071450 or  or contact Josephine Rodrigues/Stephanie Lilley at Somerset House press office on 020 7845 4638

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