In the 2008 documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor, an interviewer asked Garavani Valentino, head of the Valentino empire, what women want. "I know what they want," he said without the smallest hint of doubt. "They want to be beautiful."
It's a simple premise that not only explains how the designer's stunning career simultaneously saw him earn the right to design Jacqueline Kennedy's wedding dress and win the Neiman Marcus award (the fashion world's Oscar-equivalent) in the same year, but why his throne atop the fashion world has been assured for so long (he only recently stepped down in 2007).
It's that inspired confidence coupled with a natural sense for beauty that manifests in Valentino's masterpieces. Dramatic, exquisitely detailed gowns like the red taffeta dress from his Fall 2002 collection worn by Anne Hathaway at the 2011 Oscars both hug and drape the female figure in places not previously thought possible, bringing the fabric to life. It's more than mere accent: it's luxury in its highest, most elevated art form.