Valentino waves goodbye to fashion world

Wed Jan 23, 2008 6:23pm EST
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By Rachel Sanderson

PARIS (Reuters) - Fighting back tears, Valentino waved goodbye to the fashion world on Wednesday with a haute couture show brimming with the glamour that made him a favorite with Hollywood stars, socialites and royalty for half a century.

Lipstick red, the color that defined Valentino's career, engulfed his final turn as the designer streamed models down the runway in his signature shade, creating a flame-hued tunnel.

"He is parting in happiness but the fashion world is in mourning," said front row guest David Furnish who, together with his partner singer Elton John, is one of Valentino's friends.

In the grounds of the Rodin Museum, Valentino, considered one of the most influential designers of the late 20th century, was joined by actress Uma Thurman, European royalty and the New York socialites who have worn his floor-sweeping gowns since his breakthrough show in 1962.

Day suits in soft cashmere worn with long white gloves recalled the fashions Valentino created for his earliest fans Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Audrey Hepburn.

Dresses in shimmering sorbet pinks and oranges heavy with his signature bows, lace and ruffles were fit for the Hollywood stars he dresses today.

"I am so sad, we're witnessing the end of an era of great Italian fashion couturiers. When he is gone there is no one to replace him," said Italian television celebrity Simona Ventura, blinking away tears.

Valentino, whose couture house was bought by private equity firm Permira last year, is ranked alongside Giorgio Armani and Karl Lagerfeld as the last of the great designers from an era before fashion became a global, highly commercial industry.   Continued...

<p>Italian designer Valentino stands with his models and waves at the end of his final Spring/Summer 2008 Haute Couture fashion collection in Paris January 23, 2008. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier</p>