Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Valentino: The Last Emperor

After watching an embarrassing chick flick from Redbox, this evening, I perused Netflix New Releases on Instant Watch. And, yes, I still rent from Redbox even though we have a Netflix subscription. Sometimes you just want what you want, when you want it. Ya know?

Anyway, to my surprise, I saw "Valentino: The Last Emperor" as the first listing in the New Releases! I'm pretty sure I said I'd watch this with my boyfriend, but he wasn't around and like a kid on Christmas Eve, I just couldn't wait!

I've laughed out loud. I've made "Oh, no he di'nt!" facial expressions. I've been jealous that I don't have assistants to brush my cat's teeth. I've felt apologetic towards Valentino's partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, in both love in business. And most of all, I've felt a little better about my personal design career, because of this film.

Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani, better known simply as "Valentino", never touches a sewing needle in the documentary. He drapes fabric over fit models and illustrates, yes. Is he a designer? Absolutely. But, I think sometimes, there is a misinterpretation of what a designer is and can be.

Some days, I'll have designs in my head, all day long. Some weekends, I'll go shopping and critique everything I try on, from sewing construction to fit and fabric choice. This doesn't mean that I want to design at a fashion house. I've never wanted to live in NYC or LA, but I definitely consider myself a designer. Some people think designers are only the people that get recognition or have their name intertwined with skulls and tattoo-style artwork suffocating men's shirts across America, but for me, it's just living the life and doing what I do.

If I was Kelli Valentino, and not Kelli Crockett, I might be able to design a thousand collections with pouf sleeves and ten different ways to show a purple twill pencil skirt with a mustard wool kick pleat, and actually afford to have them sampled AND produced. (I also might have to actually go out into the sun, too, and get one of those orangey tans, yuck!) But, I have a full-time job with credit cards to pay off. I have dishes to do. I have a gym membership that I've been neglecting. And I have a boyfriend that sometimes I just can't, and mostly just don't want to, pull myself away from.

Yes, my sewing machine and serger are collecting dust (just the plastic covers, though, I swear!). Both my Ginghers and pinking shears are resting comfortably in their metal cases. And my thread holder is more of a colorful display then functional at this point. But, I'm very proud to have the construction and fit knowledge and experience that I DO have. And if I really wanted to make a better version of the ill-fitting dress I tried on at Macy's, I actually could.

If you put Valentino in a tiny apartment studio with a sewing needle, a spool of thread, a case of pins, a roll of silk chiffon, and a dress form, could he create a masterpiece? The film made me think he couldn't. But if you gave him all of that and a team of talented fit specialists, pattern makers, fabric cutters, seamstresses, and tailors, the possibilities are endless.

In this case, Valentino not only stole the show, but he also paid for it. And although he finally gave Giancarlo Giammetti, the vocal recognition he deserved after all these years, I hope that viewers will also give their own personal respect to the team that put the whole sha-bang together.

I don't disagree that he built his career from scratch with his own two hands. I don't disagree that he's extremely talented and worthy of his recognition. I just wish I could've heard more from him about where he got his start. But maybe his status was meant to be perceived as unreachable? I mean, he is by all means, "The Last Emperor".

Now, I'll shut up and simply insist that you watch it.


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