Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was one of the first to receive Valentino's new signature fragrance. It's not surprising, because she is the woman the Italian designer has called his muse. She helped launch his career back in the early '60s when she began wearing his clothes. She also wore a Valentino when she became Mrs. Aristotle Onassis in 1968, and she still wears his clothes today.
Valentino will launch the new scent--which is actually a modification of a previous version sold in Europe for a brief time during the '70s--at Robinson's Beverly Hills store on Monday, from 1:30 to 2 p.m.
Of the new version, Valentino says: "A woman must cause heads to turn when she enters a room. That is, and always will be, the inspiration for my fragrances. In the '40s, you remember, there were films in which a woman arrives at a party looking glamorous, and all the men turned toward her. This is what I try to do today."
What Valentino hopes will make noses turn is described as a mixture of "the provocative allure of exotic peach and Mediterranean melon, the headiness of tuberose, the seduction of ylang-ylang and the mystery of sandalwood."
Melon--which Valentino singles out as a keynote of his new essence--is also the inspiration for the oval-shaped, ribbed crystal flacon, which is modeled after the "voluptuous contours" of the fruit.
The red packaging with gold trim is a reflection of Valentino's favorite color, which has always been a theme in his fashion collections.
"From the beginning, I decided red was my lucky color," Valentino says. "I think it works in every kind of decor. It's a happy color that gives out lots of vibrations and is flattering to the face. A woman gives light to the house when she lives in red."
Last year, Valentino celebrated the 25th anniversary of his design career, which began in a small atelier in Rome in 1959 with his initial couture collection. Since then, the designer's name has become synonymous with luxury, opulence and extravagance--both in his clothing designs and in his personal life style. He has amassed a worldwide fashion empire that earns an estimated $600 million a year.
He has a 28-room villa on the Appian Way in Rome, an apartment in New York, a chalet in Gstaad, a house on Capri and a 95-foot yacht to get him there. He is considered to be one of the most important and influential designers in the world, and he is the only Italian to be included in the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture, the organization of Paris couturiers.
What continues to motivate the man who has described his vocation as a "lifetime dedication to beauty"?
"To be able to go home at the end of the day," joked the perpetually tanned designer, who prefers to describe himself as a "natural worker" rather than a workaholic.
"First, I'm an enthusiastic person and I love my work. Success is something that can be very dangerous," he says. "It's like a suit that you like to wear that gets too tight sometimes. Success is like a drug. You want more . . . to be the best at everything."
The most difficult part about being Valentino, the designer explains, is to remain Valentino.
"It's keeping everything under control," he says. "It's not unlike when you're in the movie business. You try to give the best of yourself and never disappoint people. They wait with a gun to kill you. You have to be very careful with everybody's eye on you."
Besides villas, Picasso paintings and yachts, the greatest compensation of being Valentino is, he says, "the satisfaction of seeing the enthusiasm of people who like pure things. It's seeing the kindness and joy of people who love you and love your work. You see your ideas leave yourself. That is very beautiful."
Valentino, who has never made apologies for his extravagant life style and love of things luxurious--in fact, the promotional material for the $185-per-ounce fragrance states plainly that the scent "will be for the privileged few rather than the many"--says he is not surprised that luxe living is back in vogue again.
"People love beautiful things," he says, peering confidently through the heavy-lidded, half-closed eyes that often give people the mistaken impression he is bored.
"They realize it's nicer to live with beauty. But you must understand that beauty can be a simple dress that costs a few dollars. It's like a bouquet of flowers. It doesn't have to be orchids to be beautiful or luxurious. An apartment can be one room and be beautiful. I am for visually beautiful things--not necessarily expensive things. It's a question of taste . . . of course."