Jan 23, 2008
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Valentino saves his signature red until last

Jan 23, 2008

PARIS, Jan 23, 2008 (AFP) - Italy's veteran designer Valentino kept his devoted fans waiting until the very end of his last-ever haute couture show on Wednesday evening for a glimpse of his signature red.

Valentino at the end of the presentation of his ultimate fashion show
Photo : François Guillot/AFP

Then just when it appeared to be all over, images of a row of models in Valentino red were projected onto the back walls for the entire length of the runway -- and all the show's 30 models came out wearing identical red gowns.

An emotional Valentino appeared for his lap of honour blowing kisses to the crowd as they gave him a standing ovation.

Val's gals, as his loyal customers are known, turned out in force for the show, the most glittering event on the calendar in couture week, held in a giant marquee in the grounds of the elegant Rodin museum.

Banks of photographers jostled round the entrance to snap the latest arrivals, not just celebrities but the dozens of ultra-elegant unknowns, many fellow Italians, wearing Valentino in homage to their favourite designer.

Among the 800 guests who packed the show were fellow couturiers Miuccia Prada and Emanuel Ungaro, former top models Eva Herzigova, Claudia Schiffer and Nadia Auermann, a spattering of minor European royalty and Farah Dibah, the widow of the last Shah of Iran.

The 75-year-old designer has been saying his goodbyes ever since announcing his retirement last summer after marking 45 years in fashion, but his collection for next summer really is his last.

His opening sequence of chic wool coats in candy pink, ice blue and pistachio with little matching gloves were a good example of why he will be missed in particular by women whose super-rich and often media-shy husbands like their wives to be dignified ladies rather than rock'n'roll chicks at the cutting edge of fashion.

Unlike many other couturiers, Valentino has always shown daywear. In this last collection he sent out pastel wool crepe two-piece skirt suits with belts knotted casually behind, an immaculate white cashmere trenchcoat trimmed with satin, and 1950s silk chiffon tea dresses in floral prints with elbow-length gloves in the same print.

The floral theme continued for cocktails with a frock handpainted with irises while a delicate ruffled bolero in sweet-pea shades looked as if it could have been made from the actual flowers.

Grand evening gowns in his fetish dramatic black and white combinations had loads of sunray pleating, ruching, and oceans of chantilly lace and lavish embroidery.

Valentino may have dressed some of the world's most beautiful and famous women but it is the countless unnamed customers who will probably be shedding tears today.by Sarah Shard

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